Brexit

Times
Theresa May has been warned that Britain has three months to solve the Irish border dilemma or Brexit trade talks may stall. European leaders meeting in Brussels tomorrow are expected to sign a transition deal and move on to trade talks. The prime minister will be told, however, that the government must come up with a concrete solution to the issue by the next EU summit in June or sign off on a legally binding backstop to keep Northern Ireland in the Customs Union. Failure to do so could result in a suspension of talks on the future relationship. A senior EU diplomat said yesterday that the other 27 countries expected to see a “solution to all matters relevant to the backstop” in good time.

Star
A group of rebel Tory and DUP MPs have threatened to torpedo Theresa May’s breakthrough Brexit transition deal. Some 14 rebels have written to the Prime Minister to criticise plans that would see 
full freedom from EU fishing policy delayed until 2021. The group, including outspoken Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg and the DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson, all represent coastal communities. They said the demands already agreed by the Prime Minister are “completely unacceptable and would be rejected by the House of Commons”. May has a fragile working majority of 13 – with the DUP propping her up to help deliver the Conservatives’ vision of Brexit. The MPs wrote that the historic economic decline in coastal communities could not be “compounded by compromise” when Britain quits the EU.

Devolved governments

Reuters
Britain’s devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales on Wednesday approved bills that aim to keep their current powers unchanged after Brexit, a backstop in case a dispute with Prime Minister Theresa May’s government drags on. The bills, tabled by the pro-independence Scottish National Party-led government in Edinburgh and its Labour Party-led counterpart in Cardiff, may potentially attract legal challenge from London under Britain’s constitutional arrangements. That would add a layer of complication for May’s Conservative government and undermine her authority while she has her hands full with the thorny process of Britain’s exit from the European Union. All parties say they are still hopeful of a solution.

EU

Express
DONALD Tusk has signalled the European Union has devised a secret proposal which will solve the Northern Ireland border issue after Brexit, insisting people should “trust him” the plan will appease both Britain and the EU. The European Council President revealed the bloc had come up with “new guidelines” to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland which are acceptable to both London and Dublin. Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Mr Tusk said it would be up to Britain to iron out the finer points, but suggested an agreement on the border could be much closer than previously thought. He said he had “some good news for Prime Minister May” and announced he had recommended to European Union  leaders they accept the proposed transition terms drafted earlier this week.

Westmonster
Lars Karlsson, a former senior customs official from Sweden, has said a “smart border” could be the answer  to the Irish border question. Citing the Norway-Sweden border as an example, he says up to 75% of goods transferred through the two countries without the need for physical checks. It works on a ‘trusted sender’ scheme, which means companies that regularly send goods over the border can join the programme without having to have their load inspected. Companies that aren’t part of the scheme could have their goods inspected at facilities away from from the border. The Irish government said that a smart border would not be enough to prevent a hard border after Brexit, however, Karlsson dismissed that, telling the Commons Brexit Committee: “It doesn’t have to be gates, it’s doesn’t have to be number plate readers, it doesn’t have to be CCTV readers, it’s up to both sides to decide on the security level.”

Guardian
EU leaders will agree in principle on a transition period for the UK after the president of the European council,  Donald Tusk, promised Spain that its veto over Gibraltar’s inclusion in the agreement would be emphasised at this week’s summit. Tusk was forced into last-minute talks with Madrid after David Davis, the Brexit secretary, spooked the Spanish government  with his insistence on Monday that the Rock would enjoy the same benefits as the rest of the UK in the 21-month period after Brexit. The EU leaders will now endorse the transition period terms on Friday, but will publicly reiterate their position that Downing Street must come to a bilateral agreement with Spain over the future of Gibraltar if the disputed territory is to stay in the single market and customs union until 31 December 2020.

Breitbart
It’s a nightmare scenario for any Dutch tulip or tomato grower: A truck laden with fresh produce trapped in a traffic jam at Rotterdam or Hook of Holland waiting for customs clearance. But it’s a possibility Dutch officials are warning exporters to prepare for in case divorce talks between the European Union and Britain break down without a deal. “All the traditional fresh Dutch products – flowers, fruit and food will be hardest hit,” said Hans de Boer of the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers. As it happens, the March 29, 2019 Brexit deadline falls right in the middle of the tulip season in the Netherlands, when farmers send truckloads of this country’s signature flower all over the world. Britain is the second largest market for Dutch flowers and plants, worth some 825 million euros ($1 billion) a year.

Express
DUTCH Prime Minister Mark Rutte admitted he is clinging to the hope Britain would stay in the European Union’s single market after the nation officially breaks away from the bloc in May 2019. The Conservative was speaking on the eve of crucial local elections in the Netherlands which could see his fragile grip on power finally fade. Mr Rutte said in an interview with the French daily Le Monde: “The most important thing [to worry about post Brexit] is the need to maintain the unity of the remaining 27 [EU member states]. “That said, we would all suffer from a chaotic Brexit. “I hope that the British stay in the single market [after the divorce] and that Europe manages to forge the world’s largest alliance with Britain.

BBC News
Theresa May will tell a summit of EU leaders in Brussels that they must remain united against a threat from Russia to all European democracies. The prime minister will say the nerve agent attack in Salisbury shows Moscow has no respect for international law. A senior Whitehall Official said Russia had “shown itself to be a strategic enemy not a strategic partner”. European leaders are also due to decide whether or not to agree the terms for a 21-month Brexit transition period. Mrs May, who will not be present when the other EU leaders discuss Brexit on Friday, will brief her counterparts on Thursday on the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.

Gibraltar

Express
SPAIN threatened to scupper the Brexit transition by issuing fresh demands over Gibraltar and warned it may not approve of the final deal, it has been reported. The UK reached an agreement with the EU on Friday, conceding grounds like fishing and immigration to get the deal finished quickly. But Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy has put it in at risk by requesting that a footnote referencing their veto is put into “green” text, which indicates it is agreed by all sides. An EU diplomat said: “Spain is playing hardball.” The move prompted EU Council chief Donald Tusk to write to leaders telling them securing an agreement on the pact “remains open”.

Fisheries

Star
Nigel Farage dumped dead fish into the Thames as he led a protest against the Government’s Brexit transition deal. The former UKIP leader and other Leave campaigners sailed on a fishing trawler dubbed “HMS Brexit”, stopping outside Parliament to ceremonially throw crates of dead haddock overboard. Watching on from the Commons balcony were a small gathering of MPs – including Tory Sir Desmond Swayne, carrying a Union Jack flag. The stunt came after Brexiteers slammed the Government’s agreement that the UK will only be 
“consulted” on fishing quotas during the Brexit transition, a deal Environment Secretary Michael Gove admitted was “sub-optimal”.

Breitbart
Brexit leader Nigel Farage was forced to hit back at a senior Sky News political editor who suggested the fishing industry was economically insignificant and should be sacrificed to the European Union at the cost of thousands of jobs. Speaking from a fishing boat in front of the Houses of Parliament this morning, Sky News’ Beth Rigby contrasted the City of London to working-class fishing communities, suggesting only one could be saved in the government’s Brexit negotiations. “Fishing, in those communities, might be very important, but the truth is that the financial services industry is 11 per cent of the economy,” she said to the former UKIP leader.

Express
THERESA May yesterday pledged to “ensure” Britain takes back control of its waters and fishing rights by the end of 2020. The Prime Minister made the promise in the Commons on a day when MPs joined a protest over the UK remaining in the “disastrous” common fisheries policy during the Brexit transition. A fishing boat with Nigel Farage aboard sailed up the Thames as part of a protest to be met by pro-Brexit and coastal MPs led by Jacob Rees-Mogg. 
The former Ukip leader helped to dump a tray of haddock into the Thames as a symbol of the tons of fish that are thrown overboard each year to allow for fishermen from other EU countries to plunder British stocks. Mr Rees-Mogg, who did not board the vessel, said he believed Mrs May had made a mistake on the deal, which will lead to Britain effectively remaining in the EU’s common fisheries policy until the end of 2020.

Guido
As Tory MPs Ross Thomson and Craig Mackinlay prepare to fling these two buckets of fish into the Thames outside parliament shortly, 14 MPs including Jacob Rees-Mogg have written to the Prime Minister to declare the transition deal on fishing 
“completely unacceptable”Read here… Dear Prime Minister, For the UK’s fishing industry, joining the EEC was a calamity. The resultant decline in the industry accelerated the economic and social decline in coastal communities and was disastrous for conservation and the marine environment. This cannot be compounded by compromise, as the UK leaves the EU.  Over the period of our membership, the UK catch declined from over 1.1 million tonnes a year to 700,000. Under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), EU vessels now catch 650,000 tons of fish in UK waters while UK vessels catch only 90,000 tons in non-UK EU waters in return. As a result, the UK is a net importer of fish each year, with a fish deficit of 300,000 tonnes. This bleak picture however underplays the decline in the UK fishing fleet as many of the UK vessels are under foreign economic ownership and land their fish abroad – only 446,000 tones was actually landed in the UK.

Russian poisoning

Sun
THE cop injured in the Salisbury nerve agent attack is recovering but the Russian spy and his daughter are “likely to die”, an expert has warned. Nick Bailey, who was first on the scene before details of the attack emerged, is thought to be on the mend after being hospitalised for more than two weeks. 
But former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia may not survive, says a Russian scientist who helped develop the nerve agent. Vladimir Uglev, who developed the Novichok nerve agent, told the Mirror he is “100 per cent” certain the Russian’s will die once their life support is removed. The scientist, who worked on a programme to develop new chemical weapons from 1972 to 1988, said: “There is no antidote to these agents.

Passport

Telegraph
Franco-Dutch company is poised to win the contract to make the iconic blue British passport after the UK leaves the European Union, the Telegraph understands. In a move set to infuriate Brexiteers, sources have told this newspaper that Gemalto, which is listed on the Amsterdam and Paris stock exchanges, is close to signing the contract after undercutting rivals, including a British firm, by around £50 million.  Sir Bill Cash, chair of the influential European Scrutiny Committee, said the decision which is expected to be finalised shortly was “completely wrong and unnecessary”. 

Times
Britain’s new passport looks likely to be made by a European company, drawing objections from Conservative MPs. The Franco-Dutch security firm Gemalto is set to win the contract, according to reports, with Britain’s De La Rue and a German company losing out. It is understood that Gemalto undercut the UK firm by £50 million. The decision could lead to hundreds of job losses at De La Rue, which first produced a blue passport for the UK government in 1915.Security elements of the passport, such as personalised data chips, must be produced in the UK but other parts of the document can be made abroad. Some parts of the present passport are already manufactured overseas.

Independent
Britain’s post-Brexit blue passport, intended as an icon of the UK’s regained independence from Europe, is set to be manufactured by a Franco-Dutch firm, according to reports. The contract to produce the documents is reportedly close to being awarded to Gemalto after the company undercut rival bids by around £50m. The development is expected to enrage Leavers already uneasy about the protracted nature of negotiations between London and Brussels over the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU). Tory MP Sir Bill Cash, chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, branded such a move “completely wrong and unnecessary”.

Mail
Britain’s traditional blue passports – to be reintroduced when the country leaves the EU – are to be made by a European firm. A Franco-Dutch company has won the contract to print the post-Brexit passports, it emerged last night. They will replace the EU’s burgundy documents from October 2019. Gemalto, which is listed on the French and Dutch stock exchanges and has a French chief executive, undercut British and other rivals by £50million, sources claimed. The contract for the passports was worth £490million – though senior Whitehall sources pointed out that the deal had not yet been signed. 

Social care

Mail
More than 60,000 pensioners will lose out thanks to the Government’s decision to delay a cap on care costs,  Labour claims. Each one will be out of pocket by an average of more than £23,000 – with thousands paying far more. The Tories promised a £72,000 cap on the amount the elderly must contribute towards their social care from 2016. But its introduction has been repeatedly delayed, leaving families facing high bills. On Tuesday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he still wanted to bring in a limit, but it was unlikely until the early 2020s.

Mail
Abuse of the elderly in care homes is widespread, the biggest survey of staff has found.Old people suffered neglect, rough treatment or abusive behaviour in 91 of the 92 homes surveyed.One in three residents are treated like inmates, never leaving the home except for hospital visits, the report said. Around 5 per cent of care home workers questioned in England said they had seen verbal abuse of the elderly, and 1 per cent saw physical abuse. The researchers stressed that the findings – based on reports from 1,544 care home staff – were likely to be ‘the tip of the iceberg’. Further behaviour classed as ‘abusive’ under official definitions reported by care home staff included residents given insufficient time for food (reported by 26 per cent of staff); Making a resident wait for care (26 per cent);   
Avoiding challenging residents (25 per cent); Taking insufficient care when moving residents (11 per cent).

Sun
ELDERLY patients are abused in almost every care home, a study suggests. 
They are verbally or physically assaulted, roughly handled, left hungry and thirsty or ignored when needing help. In the largest survey of care home staff in England, University College London researchers questioned 1,544 workers in 92 homes. They revealed at least some abuse in 91 of these homes in the three months before. Charities blamed uncaring staff, low pay and workloads. Some 26 per cent of staff had made a resident wait for help or witnessed a colleague doing so. The poll found 19 per cent were aware of them having insufficient time to eat.

Pandemic

Mail
The next flu pandemic could kill 886,000 people in the UK and infect nearly three quarters of the population, scientists have predicted. Government officials have previously warned an outbreak of a mutated influenza strain is on the horizon and poses a bigger threat to humanity than terrorism. Now in a scientific experiment, conducted for a BBC TV show, an expert has re-iterated the risks of flu. Two scientists calculated how quickly the next pandemic could spread across the country using data from around 30,000 people. The prediction comes just weeks after the UK and US was crippled by a flu outbreak, which swamped hospitals and left them looking like ‘war zones’. An analysis showed that more than 43 million people would be at risk. According to the last census in 2011 the UK’s population was nearly 63.2 million.

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