Brexit

Reuters
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is considering plans for a unilateral exit mechanism to the Irish backstop with a notice period of 12 months, the Telegraph newspaper reported bit.ly/2E0XHql late on Wednesday. The “backstop” provision in Britain’s European Union divorce deal aims at avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland. Earlier on Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May said that the backstop provision is temporary.

Mail
Theresa May insisted she had made progress on the Brexit backstop last night amid signs that her deal could be put back before MPs next week. The Prime Minister spoke after flying to Brussels for talks on the legal assurances she believes she needs to secure parliamentary approval for her withdrawal agreement. She was even pictured sharing a rare laugh with Jean-Claude Juncker – when the EU Commission head showed her his plaster-covered shaving wound on his cheek. Mrs May’s official spokesman said she wanted to bring the deal back before Parliament ‘as soon as possible’.

Express
EUROPEAN Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has dampened Theresa May’s hopes of a deal with the EU after he let slip he doubts “that we will get anywhere” at a meeting in Germany. The Eurocrat spoke at an event at Stuttgart late last night and hours before Mrs May makes her way to Brussels for tense negotiations on the hated Irish backstop which could see her win Parliament support should it be scrapped or amended. Mr Juncker added: “There isn’t enough movement for me to be able to expect this to be a discussion with a concrete outcome. “I don’t know what Mrs May will communicate to me tomorrow.”

Independent
The president of the European Commission has poured cold water on the possibility of a breakthrough in Brexit talks as he met with Theresa May in Brussels. The prime minister travelled to the EU capital on Wednesday night to meet Jean-Claude Juncker and try to convince the bloc to change the agreement to make it more palatable to Tory MPs. Senior Tories were reportedly upbeat ahead of the meeting, trailing the prospect of the prime minister returning to London with concessions, but the message was not matched by officials in Brussels.

Guardian
Theresa May has told the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, she needed “legally binding changes” to the Irish backstop if MPs were to back her Brexit deal, during a high-stakes meeting in Brussels that yielded no obvious breakthrough. With only 37 days until the UK leaves the European Union, EU expectations were low when May arrived in Brussels. Shortly before meeting the prime minister, Juncker predicted there would be no breakthrough. A joint statement on Wednesday appeared to live up to that promise, but the two leaders promised to talk again before the end of the month and described talks as “constructive”.

Independent
The European Union has a shared responsibility to prevent a “deeply damaging” no-deal Brexit for Britain, the Foreign Secretary has said. Speaking in Berlin on Wednesday morning Jeremy Hunt said historians of the future would puzzle at how “Europe failed to achieve an amicable change in its relationship with Britain”. “None of us should have any doubt that failing to secure a ratified Withdrawal Agreement between Britain and the EU would be deeply damaging, economically and politically,” he said in a speech at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung

Spain

Times
Spain has derailed emergency European Union plans to enable Britons to travel to the EU without a visa in the event of a no-deal Brexit next month. The plan has been blocked by Madrid, which is demanding Gibraltar be described as a “colony” in the Brussels statute book. Earlier this month, Spain refused to back the visa legislation unless the other 26 EU member states added a footnote to the legal text with a reference to Gibraltar as a “colony of the British Crown”.

Mail
Spain has threatened to block British citizens from having visa-free travel throughout the EU after Brexit as the row over Gibraltar resurfaced.  Legislation to give British travellers a visa-exemption was being discussed by the European parliament, after it was agreed in principle by negotiators on both sides. If agreed the deal would mean that until 2021 there would be no need for a visa to visit any EU member state, even if the UK left the bloc without a deal.

Conservative Party

Sun
REMAIN Cabinet ministers have told Theresa May she must agree to delay Brexit if there is no EU deal to halt their Commons rebellion next week. Four of the PM’s top table confronted her during a No10 meeting on Monday to insist she must take No Deal off the table. Amber Rudd, David Gauke, Greg Clark and David Mundell named a new pledge from Mrs May to extend Article 50 talks as their price not to side with backbench rebels during a new showdown with MPs in seven days time.

Express
DEFIANT Theresa May insisted she is “doing the right thing” for Britain after three anti-Brexit Tories quit the party and called on others to follow them.  Remainer rebels Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen, and Sarah Wollaston joined forces with Labour defectors railing against the Prime Minister’s EU exit strategy. The Tory turncoats timed their exit from the party to cause maximum damage on Mrs May, issuing a joint statement shortly before the Prime Minister faced questions in the Commons and then headed to Brussels for crucial talks with Eurocrats.

The Independent Group

Express
THE newly-formed Independent Group is already polling ahead of the Lib Dems and appears to be taking support from Labour, a shock new poll suggests. Results from a snap survey carried out this week show the breakaway group would be backed by 14 percent of voters in the next general election – despite it having no manifesto and not being registered as a political party. The results of the YouGov study carried out for The Times will come as a major blow for the Liberal Democrats who would receive just seven percent of the vote, the poll suggests.

Times
“We know what we’re doing until the weekend,” one of the Independent Group MPs said over a plate of curry from one of the Commons canteens late on Monday night. “After that . . . ” For a project months, if not years, in the making, the effort to kick-start a new centrist movement is strikingly short of a detailed plan. It won’t be until Monday that a meeting in the Commons will decide whether the group will have a leader, let alone who it should be. Although it has received thousands of donations, several over the £7,500 registration limit, the Independent Group doesn’t yet offer membership to anyone not already a member of parliament.

Mail
Three Tory defectors faced a backlash last night as one of them threatened to destroy the Conservative Party. Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen yesterday crossed the floor to join eight former Labour MPs in a new group demanding a second Brexit referendum. The trio announced their bombshell resignations just as Theresa May prepared to enter a critical period that will determine whether she gets her Brexit deal over the line.

Westmonster
Defecting anti-Brexit MPs today hit out at Leave.EU’s recruitment drive for Brexiteers to join the Conservative Party. Why are they so against Leave voters joining? Sarah Wollaston told a press conference today that Leave.EU are “are changing the Associations and turning the party into a Blukip”. Meanwhile Anna Soubry highlighted Leave.EU’s Facebook page and attempt to “name and shame” Remainer MPs seeking to hold up and kill off Brexit. These MPs were elected on a manifesto honour the referendum result but all too often want to simply dismiss that statement of fact

Sun
EX-TORY and Labour Remainers are to be ‘dropped’ by anti-Brexit campaigners for fears they could WRECK the chances of another referendum. Pro-EU rebels who want to wreck our exit from the bloc are trying to get Jeremy Corbyn to back a fresh plan to force through another divisive Brexit vote – and they don’t want to put him off.  The splitters humiliated the Labour boss by leaving the party earlier this week to form a new group, and Labour has distanced from them completely

Mirror
Chris Leslie said a general election would not be “right for the country” despite the group supposedly opposing Theresa May’s Brexit . It suggests  Jeremy Corbyn will not be able to rely on the 11 MPs, including 3 ex-Tories, to help unseat the government if he forces another no confidence vote. If enough Tories came on board, it is possible the group could team up with other opposition parties and force Theresa May from office. But today Heidi Allen, one of three MPs who quit the Tories for the group, admitted the new group “are not ready” to face an election – which would be triggered if the government lost a no confidence vote – and it would “crush us”.

Labour Party

Huffington Post
Labour MPs who have defected to The Independent Group will be targeted by Momentum in the coming weeks. The grassroots organisation that helped propel Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership will stage events with “celebrities” in the constituencies of those who have split. Laura Parker, Momentum’s national coordinator, slammed the defectors, including Chuka Umunna, for “working hand-in-hand with the Tories”. On Wednesday the eight Labour MPs who have already quit were joined by Conservatives Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen. Momentum claims to have raised more than £15,000 in small donations from members in the hours after the Labour MPs quit on Monday.

Mail
Ex-Militant leader Derek Hatton has been suspended from the Labour Party just a day after he was readmitted for the first time in decades. The left-wing hardliner is understood to have been notified of his suspension today, pending an investigation into a tweet from 2012, in which he criticized the Israeli government and urged British Jews to publicly condemn its actions.   The tweet, which has now been deleted, said: ‘Jewish people with any sense of humanity need to start speaking out publicly against the ruthless murdering being carried out by Israel.’

Independent
Since the referendum result in 2016, Labour’s political strategy has been to walk a middle line between Leavers and Remainers: it has neither embraced Brexit nor taken steps to prevent Britain leaving the EU. It opposes the extremism of no-deal but is not prepared to support ‘no Brexit’.  Its position is for soft Brexit, triangulating between the instruction to Leave and the economic concerns of those who voted to Remain. That means a permanent customs union, alignment with the single market, and compromise on freedom of movement. Jeremy Corbyn’s letter to the prime minister of 6th February set out Labour’s Brexit plan clearly and coherently.

Times
Jeremy Corbyn appeared increasingly isolated last night as tensions rose over his reaction to the Labour breakaway and the readmission of Derek Hatton, the former Militant firebrand. After intense criticism from even the Labour leader’s allies, Mr Hatton was suspended last night 48 hours after he was let back into the party. A tweet Mr Hatton sent in 2012 in which he appeared to blame all Jews for the actions of the Israeli government had been recirculated.

Mail
Jeremy Corbyn was last night branded ‘Stalinist’ in his response to MPs quitting Labour as he faced the threat of more resignations. Labour yesterday blocked MPs and local party officials from accessing its databases, claiming one of the defectors had tried to steal members’ data. Meanwhile, the party announced plans to force by-elections in the constituencies of those leaving by allowing voters to stage recall petitions. And Corbyn-backing Momentum said it would canvass in the defectors’ constituencies to warn voters they had ‘joined a Blairite-Tory coalition’ after Conservative MPs Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston joined their ranks yesterday.

Independent
Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have launched a series of attacks on the new political grouping in the commons, mainly made up of former Labour MPs. The Labour leader’s spokesperson accused the new Independent Group of being an “establishment coalition” that backed “austerity, corporate tax cuts [and] privatisation”. As three Conservative MPs also left their party to join the new centre-ground set, the Corbyn-backing Momentum activist group branded them a “Blairite-Tory coalition” that would represent the “super rich”.

LibDems

Times
Rebel MPs from the Independent Group will formally meet the Liberal Democrats to discuss Brexit. The talks will raise the prospect of the two groups joining forces in the House of Commons as it takes a series of crucial votes on Britain’s departure from the EU. A party source confirmed the Lib Dems, with 11 MPs, will stage weekly meetings with the Independent Group, which is formed of 11 ex-Tory and ex-Labour MPs. If the 22 MPs were to secure an agreement to frustrate Brexit – for example, by demanding another referendum – it could cause huge problems for Theresa May as she attempts to win backing for her deal.

Asylum seekers

Telegraph
Council spending on care for child asylum-seekers has almost doubled in four years despite authorities being forced to cut services and raise council tax, new figures show. The Local Government Association (LGA) said it had risen from  £77.8 million in 2014/15 to £152.4 million in England. It warned a sharp increase in unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) after the international migration crisis in 2015 had contributed to “soaring” demand on councils’ children’s services.

High streets

Mail
Unfair business rates must be reformed and thousands of empty shops converted if Britain is to avoid becoming a country of ghost towns, MPs will warn today. The call for radical action and ‘large-scale structural change’ comes from the Commons housing, communities and local government committee. It argues the ‘high street heyday’ is over and it is vital to redefine the purpose of town centres. In a stark report, the committee concluded: ‘With online sales currently at 20 per cent, and changing consumer behaviour meaning this is likely to continue growing, the future for high streets and town centres will become increasingly bleak.

Education

Times
Teachers should be paid more in schools with lots of poor children, MPs say as they warn that the attainment gap for five-year-olds will take 40 years to close. A report by the all-party parliamentary group on social mobility criticises government austerity for depriving schools and children’s centres of funding. It identifies social mobility “coldspots” that could fall further behind the rest of the country. These include parts of Somerset, Norfolk and Blackpool

Health

Times
More than 2,000 people across Britain have needed treatment in intensive care for flu this winter, despite the virus circulating at lower than usual levels. Doctors said that the statistics could point to an unusually virulent strain and urged people in vulnerable groups, including pregnant women and over-65s, to make sure that they had received their flu jab, with the unvaccinated appearing at greatest risk. Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said that a low level of GP consultations and hospital admissions for flu, coupled with higher levels of patients needing emergency care, “could point to this year’s strain being particularly virulent and causing more extreme reactions in infected patients”.

Sun
THOUSANDS of flu victims have been rushed to hospital for lifesaving treatment this winter – despite far fewer cases being seen by GPs. Medics warn this year’s bug is proving much more lethal than previous years.  It has claimed almost 200 lives in the past four months, with younger adults and pregnant women worst affected. Experts said unvaccinated patients seem to be most at risk. Officials claim the flu jab has worked this year – and warn vulnerable Brits can still get treated.

Mail
Up to 200,000 patients will be given their own NHS allowances to spend on care – including dogs. Ministers want to massively expand the ‘personal health budgets’ scheme for patients with long-term illnesses. They will be given allowances of approximately £3,000 a year to spend on care and equipment to manage their condition. This includes ‘assistant dogs’ who warn patients they are about to have a diabetes attack as well as new equipment for the home. But the scheme has proved controversial in the past and patients have previously spent the money on horse riding, vacuum cleaners and head massages.

Star
A DRUG dubbed a “magic bullet” has the potential to change the way women are treated for one of the deadliest forms of breast cancer, an expert claims.  Sacituzumab is an antibody that zeroes-in on cancer cells. Like a homing missile, it delivers a “warhead” in the form of a potent chemotherapy drug. Since it directly targets tumours while avoiding healthy cells, side effects are kept to a minimum. In a clinical trial involving 108 women with triple-negative breast cancer that had spread around the body, the infused drug caused “significant” tumour shrinkage, researchers reported

Energy

Telegraph
Gas hobs could be banned from being installed in new homes within seven years over fears that they are harming the environment. Under new plans unveiled on Thursday by climate watchdogs no new homes will be connected to the gas grid after 2025 at the latest, in order for the UK to meet its legally binding climate targets.  The proposals, from Government’s official climate advisers, would call time on new gas radiators, boilers and cooking hobs.

Times
Gas boilers and cookers should be banned in new homes within six years to meet Britain’s legally binding emissions targets, the government’s climate change advisory body recommends today. Developers must be forbidden from connecting homes to the gas grid and should instead be forced to install low-carbon heating systems, according to a report by the Committee on Climate Change. The move would mean that newly built homes would not be able to have gas stoves and would need to be fitted with alternatives such as induction hobs.

Mail
Gas hobs and boilers could be banned from new homes within six years to meet carbon emissions targets. Property developers would not be allowed to connect new-builds to the gas grid after 2025, official guidance says. The proposals, unveiled today, would put an end to new gas radiators, boilers and cooking hobs. Instead, the Committee on Climate Change said newly-built properties should rely on low-carbon heating and cooking equipment such as induction hobs. The Home Builders Federation said the proposed ban would make new-builds a harder sell, as gas boilers are often cheaper and preferred by buyers.

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