Brexit

Westmonster
Brexit hero Jacob Rees-Mogg just cornered government Minister David Davis on the so-called ‘transition period’ today that is set to see aspects of EU membership such as open borders go on until at least 2021. Mogg made the point today, asking: “If, on the 30th March 2019 the UK is subject to the ECJ, takes new rules relating to the Single Market and is paying into the EU Budget, are we not a vassal state?” The British people voted for Brexit on June 23rd 2016, and yet are now expected to wait at least 5 years for anything substantial to change. It simply isn’t good enough.

BBC News
David Davis insists the transition period after the UK leaves the EU is not a “deferral” of Brexit, even though the UK will follow Brussels’ rules. He rejected claims by Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg it would be “more honest” to say the UK was effectively staying in the EU for two years after Brexit day. The Brexit Secretary confirmed the UK would be subject to European Court of Justice rulings during the transition. But he said it would be free to strike trade deals with other countries. This was something it was not allowed to do while still a member of the EU, he told a committee of MPs.

Independent
David Davis has risked a backlash from Tory MPs after indicating Britain will not refuse new EU rules in the Brexit  transition period, when the UK has no power to shape them. He suggested the Government would rely instead on the EU taking a long time to implement new rules during the likely two-year period after 2019, in the hope that by the time any come in to force the transition will be over. But his answer was immediately dismissed as “really rather weak” by a senior Conservative backbencher who grilled the Brexit Secretary during a committee hearing on Wednesday. Mr Davis’s reluctance to say the UK will refuse fresh EU rules also sets him on a collision course with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has said the country must not take new regulation after 2019.

Times
David Cameron has privately admitted that Brexit has not turned out to be the “disaster” he predicted it would be during the referendum campaign. The former prime minister was chatting to Lakshmi Mittal, the steel tycoon, in Davos when cameras unwittingly recorded them. Mr Mittal observes that Brexit is the hot topic and Mr Cameron responds: “Yes, it’s frustrating. It’s a mistake not a disaster. It’s turned out less badly than we first thought. But it’s still going to be difficult.” During the referendum campaign, Mr Cameron described a vote to leave the EU as a “self-destruct option” and a Treasury analysis warned that it would tip the UK into a year-long recession, with up to 820,000 jobs lost within two years.

Mail
David Cameron was caught yesterday finally admitting that his doom-laden predictions about the impact of Brexit had been proved wrong. The former prime minister appeared to disown Project Fear, saying that leaving the EU had not proved ‘a disaster’ and had ‘turned out less badly than we first thought’. His comments came at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, where his conversation with the billionaire steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal was caught on camera. Last night pro-Brexit MPs lined up to welcome Mr Cameron’s change of heart. During the referendum campaign in 2016 Mr Cameron and his Chancellor, George Osborne, issued a string of blood-curdling warnings about the consequences of a Leave vote. 

Westmonster
Sneaky camera footage reveals even David Cameron is warming to the idea of Brexit Britain – he also appears to admit that Project Fear got it wrong. He’s said Brexit isn’t a ‘disaster’ and ‘it’s not turned out as badly as we first thought’ – but this doesn’t chime with what was said in the run up to the EU referendum, where the electorate was told there’d be instant recession… Sneaky footage recorded him saying: “As I keep saying, it’s a mistake, not a disaster. “It’s turned out less badly than we first thought, but it’s still going to be difficult.” The video emerged on the day Britain recorded its highest ever employment figures – 32.2m people are now in work. Even the old, Europhile establishment are coming round to Brexit Britain!

Express
NIGEL FARAGE has savaged David Cameron with just one word after the former prime minister backtracked on his Project Fear stance during the EU referendum. Mr Cameron admitted Brexit has not turned out as badly as he first feared after losing the historic EU referendum in 2016 in a 
video from the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Mr Cameron, former Chancellor George Osborne and Bank of England chief Mark Carney led the Project Fear rally in the build-up to the vote to leave the EU, pumping scaremongering stories that Britain’s economy would be seriously damaged. The former Conservative Party prime minister insisted at the time that leaving the EU would be catastrophic for the British economy. But footage from 5 news showed Mr Cameron, speaking about Brexit in the corridors of WEF, changing his mind on the consequence of voting to leave the EU. Commenting on the viral video of the exchange on Twitter, Mr Farage rinsed Mr Cameron for his shock Brexit admission, simply writing “Busted”. 

Independent
The department charged with securing trade after Brexit is not fit for the role and has been forced to delay projects as it struggles with a skills shortage, a damning report warns today. Liam Fox’s running of the Department for International Trade (DIT) is criticised for failing to even properly set out the “capabilities and level of capacity” it will need to deliver for British business. The National Audit Office (NAO) also raises fears that DIT will never secure the “specific trade and negotiation skills” required, because of rapid turnover in the civil service. What was described as a “deeply worrying” report is published after Wilbur Ross, Donald Trump’s Commerce Secretary, placed further hurdles in the way of future trade talks by describing the US as a victim of a global trade war. The rest of the world should expect more tariff hikes from Washington in retaliation, he warned – after the US imposed tariffs of up to 50 per cent on imports of washing machines and solar panels from China and South Korea, Mr Ross said.

Express
A RAPID turnover of ministers in Theresa May’s Government has disrupted preparations for Brexit and could make it more difficult for the Prime Minister to achieve her wider objectives, a new report has warned. Despite Mrs May’s decision to keep Cabinet “big beasts” such as Philip Hammond and Boris Johnson in place in this month’s reshuffle, the report by the Institute for Government found that 71 per cent of ministers – 85 out of 122 – are new to their jobs since last year’s general election.  At the crucial Department for Exiting the EU, only two ministers have stayed in place since July 2016, while every minister in the Cabinet Office and three-quarters of those in the Ministry of Justice were replaced in the January 2018 reshuffle.

Express
TONY Blair attacked Brexit again today, insisting Leave voters would change their minds when they see the Government’s final deal and insisting people should be given a second referendum on the issue. The ex-Labour Prime Minister has been a constant critic of Britain leaving the EU ever since the referendum result. And today he was back on his favourite subject as he attended the World Economic Forum at Davos. Speaking on Bloomberg TV, Mr Blair said he hoped the Brexit process would fail and warned Britain would have to “fashion a new future” if it went ahead. And he told the channel: “We’ll be faced with a very acute dilemma during the course of the negotiations.

Breitbart
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has claimed the British people could reject Brexit when they realise the UK “needs” EU migrants, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The former Labour Party leader also admitted the bloc would be diminished politically and economically when the UK leaves, speaking to Bloomberg TV on Wednesday morning. Questioned on if he thought Brexit could be blocked with a second referendum, he said: “You could have a general election. If we do go through with Brexit – and I hope we don’t – it’s going to be a complete change and we will have to fashion a new future for the country.” He claimed that the post-Brexit deal reached with the EU will be bad, adding: “I think it will be very difficult to persuade people that’s better than what we have now.”

EU

Breitbart
European Union (EU) migrants arriving during the agreed so-called “Brexit transition period” will not automatically be allowed to stay in the UK indefinitely, ministers have been privately claiming. Just over a week ago, it was reported that Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, had drawn up guidelines demanding mass migration continues after Brexit, contradicting an agreement struck with the UK in December. “The deal in December did specify March 2019 for free movement rights. That was then. Now as part of the discussion on transitional arrangements that has changed,” an EU source said at the time. The UK had initially wanted  the cut-off date to be the day of the Brexit vote in 2016, and the EU’s shifting stance caused alarm among Brexit supporters.

Conservative Party

Mail
The head of the Tory party’s 1922 Committee has urged MPs to stop submitting formal demands for a leadership contest – sparking fears he may be perilously close to having to call one. Sir Graham Brady is bound by party rules to trigger a no-confidence vote in Theresa May’s leadership if he receives 48 letters of dissent, amounting to 15% of the parliamentary party. The senior Tory was said to be ‘ashen faced’ with the prospect of receiving another letter recently, leading to speculation the total received could already be in the mid-40s.  Sir Graham, who was knighted in the New Year Honours after holding off calls for a leadership election following Mrs May’s calamitous party conference speech, recently told colleagues to ‘be careful’ and consider the consequences before sending one of the letters, according to The Sun

Politics Home
Tory insiders fear the party could suffer major losses when voters go to the polls across the country on 3 May. All the seats in London’s 32 borough councils are up for grabs, with experts predicting that the Conservatives could lose control of more than half of the authorities they currently hold. Borough council elections will also take place in Labour-held Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle, while a proportion of seats on dozens of other councils across England are also being voted on. Overall, the Conservatives are defending 1,302 seats and control of 39 councils.

Labour Party

Guardian
Momentum has suffered a string of defeats in Labour party selections, Guardian analysis can reveal, winning just a handful of battles for marginal seats across England and Wales. Of the 29 seats where candidates have been selected, just seven selections were won by candidates with Momentum campaigns behind them.  Overnight, Erica Lewis, a former staffer for MP Cat Smith, lost her bid for selection in Morecambe and Lunesdale, despite backing from Momentum. The selection highlighted tension between the local and national movements. North Lancashire’s Momentum chair protested against the national group endorsing a candidate for the seat apparently without consulting local members.

Sky News
The leader of Momentum, the left-wing Labour activist group, has denied claims that it is planning a nationwide deselection purge of MPs opposed to Jeremy Corbyn. Jon Lansman, one of three Momentum candidates elected to Labour’s national executive last week, insists there is no hit list including high-profile MPs such as Hilary Benn and Angela Eagle. “We have made it clear that we are not going to campaign to de-select anyone, at all, anywhere,” he said in an interview with The Independent. “Momentum nationally is not going to campaign to deselect any MP and we will stick by that. We are not going to campaign to deselect any individual MP.” Momentum leader Jon Lansman says there is no hit list

Thatcher

Guardian
Councillors have rejected a proposal for a statue of Margaret Thatcher on Parliament Square in central London. Westminster council turned down a plan last July for a bronze likeness of the former prime minister, measuring one-and-a-half times lifesize and dressed in state robes. The applicants wanted the statue to be looking towards parliament, but it was rejected, partly due to fears about possible vandalism. It was also felt that it could become a magnet for protesters. 
The organisers submitted a revised proposal that would place the statue on a four-metre-high plinth designed to be hard to climb and featuring integral scaffolding sockets so hoardings could be easily put around it during demonstrations. The statue would be created by Douglas Jennings, a sculptor described by council planning officials as having “an international reputation”. However, council officials again recommended the committee turned down the plan, for a series of reasons.

NHS

Times
Doctors offered jobs in hospitals are being blocked from coming to Britain because monthly quotas for skilled worker visas have been oversubscribed for the past two months. Home Office officials have rejected some doctors who are not in specialisms with a shortage or earning at least £55,000 a year, up from the usual £30,000 threshold. Hospitals in Birmingham and Cambridge have been unable to bring in doctors from outside the European Economic Area to help deal with shortages on the wards. Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge has had three doctors turned down because they failed to meet a points-based system linked to salary levels, which is used for applicants when the monthly skilled worker visa quota is oversubscribed.

Telegraph
A third of GP practices have run out or are running low of flu vaccines, as the virus continues to spread, a survey has found. The shortages come amid the worst flu season in seven years, with levels set to hit epidemic proportions within a week, if current trends continue. The survey of more than 400 GP practices by Pulse magazine found practices struggling to replenish stocks and forced to borrow vaccines off other practices. It comes after an investigation by the Daily Telegraph found pharmacies across the country running out of vaccines, amid increasing demand for jabs as flu levels continue to rise.

Mail
The NHS is facing a new hacking crisis with patients warned not to go to A&E after a ‘major incident’ hit computer systems across the country. The IT problem is affecting some of the busiest hospitals in Manchester and Wales but it is not yet known if it has spread further. Patients have been asked only to attend A&E for serious or life-threatening emergencies as hospital bosses work to resolve the issue.  A Welsh Government spokesman blamed a technical issue and said two NHS Wales Data Centres in Blaenavon and Cardiff Bay are affected. She added: ‘This is under investigation by the NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) and is being dealt with as a priority.’ Manchester Royal Infirmary and Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital have both been hit by a ‘network outage’ this afternoon.

Sun
BATTLING a bout of flu leaves you six times more likely to suffer a heart attack, experts have warned. And influenza B – or Japanese flu – which is currently doing the rounds in Britain, is linked to the greatest risk. For seven days after falling sick with the virus, patients are more susceptible to a heart attack. And the findings reinforce just how important it is to have the flu jab, scientists in Canada said. Dr Jeff Kwong, from Public Health Ontario, said: “Our findings are important because an association between influenza and acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) reinforces the importance of vaccination.” His warnings come as 8.3million people were thought to be battling flu, the latest figures from online tool FluSurvey revealed.

Education

Morning Star
STRIKE action at 61 universities came a step closer today after talks on bosses’ plans to wreck the lecturers’ pension scheme ended without agreement. The University and College Union (UCU) said that employers’ organisation Universities UK (UUK) had reneged on a commitment to hold further talks. UUK intends to scrap the lecturers’ pension scheme, which guarantees levels of retirement pensions based on final salaries. It wants to replace it with a scheme that would be dependent on stock market fluctuations, giving no guaranteed retirement income. The lecturers voted overwhelmingly for strike action, by 88 per cent on a 58 per cent turnout, the UCU announced on Monday. Seven more universities are reballoting after failing to reach the government-imposed statutory 50 per cent turnout.

Halal

Mail
A council has scrapped its controversial ban on serving ‘cruel’ halal lamb and beef from schools after local Muslims threatened a High Court battle. The Islamic community in Lancashire were furious when the county council voted to kick out halal meat from its canteens.  Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM) vowed to launch a judicial review, claiming the authority failed to consult before their ban. But now councillors have written to the LCM’s chief executive Abdul Hamid Qureshi saying it will quash the ban and ‘consider afresh’ before a fresh vote. Lancashire County Council will consult on the proposal and continue the current contracts to supply unstunned meat to 27 schools in Blackburn, Nelson, Burnley, Rawtenstall, Hyndburn, Clitheroe and Preston. A new vote will have to be taken by the county council, taking into account the result of the consultation, before the ban can be reinstated.

UKIP
The appalling case where abattoir workers at the £29m per annum Hallal slaughterhouse in North Yorkshire have pleased guilty to animal cruelty after film of their horrific behaviour was brought to light has lead to calls for a rapid change in legislation. UKIP Agriculture spokesman, Stuart Agnew MEP said, “It is incidents such as this that test the tolerance of the British people towards those of other cultures. UKIP has long had a policy of installing CCTV into abattoirs to ensure that the law on religious slaughter is observed. “The individuals pictured in the films is a disgrace to his community which I hope will stridently condemn their actions.”

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