Article 50 Bill wording announced.  See it here.


The eight-minute target for ambulances to reach life-threatening emergencies is being relaxed in a trial that simply lets paramedics arrive as quickly as they can. 
It means patients having heart attacks, strokes or seizures will not be guaranteed an ambulance within eight minutes. Amid a record number of 999 calls and a severe shortage of paramedics, a report also urges ambulance services to hire more call-centre handlers to advise more patients over the phone, rather than dispatching emergency vehicles. The response time trial is under way in three of the country’s ten ambulance services – South West, West Midlands and Yorkshire, which serve a total of 16million patients – and could be extended nationally. But most of the public are unaware of it and it has only been highlighted today in a report by the National Audit Office. It was gradually introduced in the three regions last year with no announcements, fuelling concerns that the public have been deliberately kept in the dark.

Patients are waiting longer for emergency treatment because ambulances are failing to cope with millions more 999 calls, the spending watchdog warns today. Half a million hours per year are wasted as ambulances queue to drop patients off at A&E departments, which the National Audit Office warns is a symptom of hospitals full to bursting. Only one ambulance service in ten is meeting crucial targets, down from nine three years ago, and calls are up by a third. One paramedic post in ten is vacant as staff shun an increasingly stressful job. The NAO is demanding an overhaul of the organisation and funding of services.

Understaffed and underfunded NHS ambulance services are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with rising demand, the Government’s spending watchdog has said. The National Audit Office said ambulance services were failing to hit a target of 75 per cent of ambulances on the scene within eight minutes. An overall figure of 72.5 per cent meeting response time also masks significant variation in service quality across the country, with “national performance against response time targets … getting worse”, according to the report. 
In 2015/16, just one in three ambulance trusts actually met their targets for responding to 999 calls on time. The official warning comes weeks after the Government denied there was an NHS “humanitarian crisis” after a warning by the British Red Cross about overstretched hospitals. The NAO’s report however says that overburdened A&Es are having a knock-on effect on ambulance services..

Article 50

Theresa May warned pro-Brussels MPs yesterday they won’t block Brexit – even if they vote down her final deal with the EU. In an uncompromising message to Remainers, the Prime Minister said Britain could instead revert to a system of tariffs based on World Trade Organisation rules. Mrs May said she was confident she could ‘negotiate a good trade deal … because it will be in our interests and the interests of the European Union to do so’. But asked whether there might be an option for MPs to vote to remain in the EU rather than accept a bad deal, the PM’s spokesman later said: ‘We are not going to give them an alternative which would be against the will of the British people.’ The warning put her on collision course with Labour, which vowed to engage in ‘hand-to-hand combat’ with the Government over the issue. Later today, ministers will publish legislation to formally take Britain out of the EU, following a Supreme Court ruling this week that Mrs May cannot trigger Brexit without Parliament’s approval.

Sky News
Two months of parliamentary warfare over Brexit will begin when the Government publishes emergency Article 50 legislation forced on ministers by defeat in the Supreme Court. There have been reports that ministers will produce the bill as early as today and that parliamentary debates could begin next week. Within hours of publication of the Government’s bill, pro-Remain MPs will begin tabling dozens of amendments which pro-Leave MPs claim are part of a plot to sabotage Brexit. After Theresa May bowed to pressure from MPs to produce a Brexit white paper, the Brexit Secretary David Davis will face questions from MPs on what it will contain and when it will be published. Downing Street would only say the white paper would be published “in due course” and insisted it will be entirely separate from the Article 50 process and legislation.

The prime minister has bowed to pressure from a group of her own MPs and agreed to publish a white paper setting out the government’s plans for leaving the European Union. The surprise announcement, which came at the beginning of prime minister’s questions yesterday, staved off what looked set to become a test of Theresa May’s Commons majority. It came after the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Mrs May required parliamentary approval before she could trigger Article 50, which will begin the formal two-year process of departing the bloc. “I recognise that there is an appetite in this House to see that plan set out in a white paper,” she said.

BBC News
Legislation paving the way for the government to start the Brexit process is to be published later. A bill enabling the government to trigger Article 50 – the formal process for leaving the EU – is to be produced after the Supreme Court ruled legislation would be necessary. Brexit Secretary David Davis has said the bill will be “straightforward”. But it is expected to face amendments from MPs and peers, while others have said they will oppose it outright. The government was forced to draw up the legislation after losing an appeal at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, when judges ruled that Parliament must give permission to start the Brexit process.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing a revolt by a quarter of his MPs on the vote to trigger Article 50 and begin the Brexit process. Leading figures including former leadership contender Owen Smith are among those who have already indicated they will vote against the measure. The government is expected to bring a Bill to the Commons within days to formalise the decision to trigger Article 50, following a ruling by the Supreme Court on Tuesday which decreed that MPs must be consulted. But as many as 60 Labour MPs have indicated that they will defy the will of the British people and oppose the measure. Leading the rebellion is Owen Smith, who has vowed to vote against the measure despite the people of his Pontypridd constituency backing Brexit during the referendum in June.

Morning Star
THERESA MAY confirmed yesterday that an official white paper will set out the government’s plans for leaving the EU — but she refused to specify how soon. She told MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions that this would be a chance for them to scrutinise proposals for her negotiations with 27 other EU states during Brexit proceedings. But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pushed her to say whether it would be published before or at the same time as the Brexit Bill and if MPs would have enough time to review the plans during the run-up to the March 31 timetable to trigger Article 50. The legal tussle brought by pro-EU campaigners over whether the PM had powers to trigger Article 50 or not had also wasted time, he said. Senior judges ruled on Tuesday that the government must have the vote of MPs and Lords. Hours after the judgement, Brexit secretary David Davis said a Bill would be tabled “within days” but no date has been set yet for a white paper.

Single market

The Liberal Democrats have vowed to fight on to retain single market membership after Brexit, after Labour was accused of throwing in the towel. Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, said he would table an amendment to the Article 50 legislation to try to stop Theresa May pulling out of the EU trading arrangements.The demand will be in addition to the party’s ‘red line’ – that voters must be given their say on the final deal that emerges from the talks, in a referendum. Labour was accused of a U-turn yesterday, when it appeared to drop a vow to try to force the Government to commit, in law, to tariff-free access to the single market. Later, that proposed amendment was removed – because, the party said, the Article 50 Bill would be about the “process of Brexit”, rather than “negotiating objectives”.


More than half a million British motorists will face fines for speeding in Europe even though British police are powerless to pursue continental drivers for the same offence in this country. A quirk of European Union law will create a “one-way” justice system that penalises British drivers in countries including France, the Netherlands and Belgium but not those breaking motoring laws in the UK. The directive will be introduced for British drivers by the start of May, just before millions of families embark on summer holidays to the continent. Under the reforms, EU governments are given automatic access to vehicle ownership records held by other countries, which are then used to prosecute offences carried out in foreign-registered cars.

THE man who is poised to become President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the European Union says he believes the Euro “could collapse” in the next year and a half. Speaking to the BBC, Professor Ted Malloch said he would “short the euro” and added he thought the UK could agree a “mutually beneficial” free trade deal with the US in 90 days, saying a clean break from Brexit would be of most benefit to America. The sooner this happened, the easier it would be for Britain to bypass Brussels bureaucrats and put a free trade deal in place. Malloch said it “sent a signal that the United States was behind Great Britain in its hour of need.” He added he thought any efforts by the EU to stop the UK from talking to the US about such deals would be “absurd” and compared it to “trying to stop his wife having an affair”.

Who do Eurocrats turn to when in crisis? Send for Blair! Tony Blair is to fly to Brussels today to meet with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EU Commission. Given that the former Prime Minister has already amassed a £9.3 million war chest to fight Brexit, it can only be assumed that the meeting will be about how to give Britain as bad a deal as possible, in a pathetic attempt to keep us in the failing bloc. We suppose you have to laugh at the irony, though. The unelected Blair meeting the unelected Juncker to discuss crushing the democratic choice we made on June 23rd. Is there a better possible advertisement for leaving this joke of an organisation?


Nicola Sturgeon’s government is preparing for a fresh constitutional battle over Brexit by tabling a motion calling on Holyrood to reject the UK government’s article 50 bill. Mike Russell, the Scottish government’s Brexit minister, told MSPs the refusal by Theresa May’s government in London to countenance Sturgeon’s demands for a special Scottish deal was pushing the country closer to a second independence referendum. Ministers would publish a memorandum, he said, setting out the Scottish government’s objections to Brexit before asking Holyrood to vote on a symbolic motion rejecting article 50. Russell said Scotland increasingly faced a choice on whether to remain in the UK, now the supreme court had ruled that a long-standing convention requiring Holyrood to be formally consulted on Westminster laws which changed its powers did not apply to Brexit. “The actions of the UK government are making this a key question facing us,” he told MSPs. “It is becoming clearer by the day that Scotland’s voice is simply not being heard or listened to within the UK. The claims about Scotland being an equal partner are being exposed as empty, diversionary rhetoric.”

THE SNP was left in an awkward spot on Daily Politics after the figures he cited to show the importance of Scotland’s EU trade were torn apart. Stewart Hosie, the party’s economic spokesman, claimed exports to the rest of the world and Europe had risen dramatically over recent years compared to trade with the UK. As he argued Scottish business deals were up 50 per cent in seven years globally, Mr Hosie was quizzed on where the evidence was to back the claim up. “We’ll happily publish those figures, I’ve got them, we’ve seen them, we’ve been through this stuff,” he said during an interview on Daily Politics. “What we can’t do is surrender the growth we’ve been seeing with the EU and the growth we’ve been seeing globally, driven by EU trade agreements – so it’s vital, among other things, we have trade agreements to replace those that we are going to lose.” Andrew Neil interrupted: “I’ve got the Scottish exports here, issued by the Scottish Government.” Looking at the data on a computer screen, Mr Neil said: “Scottish exports to the European Union in 2002 were just over £10bn – in 2014/15 they were just over £10bn – it hasn’t moved in over 10 years.


A repeat of the great fire that destroyed parliament in the 19th century is inevitable unless MPs move out for urgent repairs, ministers have been warned. A vote on the £3.9 billion scheme to overhaul the Palace of Westminster has been delayed, prompting accusations that the government is using “weasel” language to excuse its inaction. The biggest risk comes from the complex web of wiring, including decades-old cables sitting next to steam and gas pipes, officials say. Last summer a fire broke out after an old electrical cable caught light and was “only detected by chance”, insiders said. It also emerged that the Strangers’ Dining Room was closed last month when an electrical circuit in the basement was switched off because it was unsafe.

International freight

CUSTOMS will buckle under Brexit unless the Government invests a fortune at our biggest ports, haulage bosses warned yesterday. MPs were told that leaving the EU without a customs union deal would create “enormous” disruption without the hiring of thousands of new staff. EU products would have to undergo the same checks and red tape as those coming in from outside the bloc. Execs said it could delay EU goods coming into the UK by lorry by at least 24 hours – threatening chaos for businesses such as supermarkets and Amazon. Containers may be held up by up to four days in ports as customs staff are forced to check products they currently waive through. James Hookham, deputy chief of the Freight Trade Association, said the port of Dover wasn’t big enough to cope with the extra number of lorries that would have to park up – or the shipments that would have to be stored. He said there would have to be a whopping 300 million additional checks. And he warned: “Dover doesn’t have the space. Absolutely categorically we should avoid physical checks on our lorries.”


Comprehensives should introduce grammar school-style teaching methods to challenge their brightest pupils, according to the head of UCAS. Mary Curnock Cook, who runs the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, said there is a huge demand from parents for schools that have academic selection and follow a traditional academic curriculum. And rather than leave these pupils languishing in mixed-ability classes which are not up to the job of stretching the best pupils, bringing in ‘grammar streams’ could allow them to flourish, she said. This ‘third way’ could involve partnerships with private schools in which the brightest pupils could access resources such as Latin classes, she added.


British Steel ended last year in profit and plans to reinstate the 3% salary sacrifice it agreed with workers when it took over the business last summer. The company, bought from Indian giant Tata by investment fund Greybull, said its turnaround plan was making progress and it was on track to deliver sustainable growth. The Scunthorpe-based business said it had secured a series of “significant” contracts, including deals supplying steel for the construction of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset and rails for the Algerian and Italian train networks. Executive chairman Roland Junck said: “I’m pleased to report that after our first seven months of trading, we are building on our promising start to life as British Steel. “Having implemented the first stage of our turnaround plan, returning the business to profit and putting it on a sustainable footing, we are now well positioned to implement the next stage of the plan.


Ministers could take direct control of the strike-hit Southern Rail network in an attempt to counter crippling delays and cancellations. Temporarily re-nationalising the beleaguered franchise is among several options being considered by the Department for Transport, it is understood. Details of the radical plans being drawn up in Whitehall emerged after months of strikes that have hit hundreds of thousands of passengers. An internal investigation is to decide whether Southern’s performance is so poor that it has breached the terms of its contract. Rail Business Intelligence magazine said officials are preparing a number of options if it is found in breach, including splitting off Southern from the company that runs it, Govia Thameslink Railway. Another alternative, known as a ‘managed exit’, would involve civil servants running the entire franchise until a new bidder is found.

The company behind Britain’s worst rail operator could be sacked within weeks under plans to renationalise the network. The Department for Transport (DfT) is considering taking direct control of Southern Rail and placing it in civil service hands until another private operator can be found. It would be the first time that the government has directly run a train company since intercity services on the east coast mainline were brought into public hands after the collapse of a franchise in 2009. The DfT is understood to be exploring options to sort out problems on Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), Southern’s operator. They are thought to include temporarily pulling the franchise in-house, giving officials control over day-to-day operations.

Ministers are considering taking direct control of the rail franchise that includes Southern rail, it has been claimed. Options ranging from splitting off Southern from Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), to a complete “managed exit” to take direct control of the entire franchise until a new contract could be let are under consideration by the Department of Transport, according to the Rail Business Intelligence magazine. Passengers on the blighted route have finally seen a full timetable restored, with the suspension of strikes while GTR holds talks with the train drivers’ union Aslef, but the department is still adjudicating on a question of whether the company breached the terms of its franchise. Commuters have suffered almost two years of disruption and delay on the rail network, a situation that has been exacerbated by strikes since last April. GTR claimed in 2016 that its failure to run adequate services was down to force majeure – the effects of industrial action – but the department has yet to confirm whether it is in breach of contract, despite months of review.


SCIENTISTS are expected to move the fabled Doomsday Clock closer to midnight on Thursday, symbolising that humanity is on the brink of ANNIHILATION. The famous clock, used to illustrate the dangers humans pose to our own survival, was first designed in 1947 during the rush to create a devastating nuclear weapon. Experts working on the Manhattan Project, the codename for America’s successful development of the atomic bomb, wanted a way of demonstrating how close we were to disaster. Currently the clock stands at three minutes to midnight, where midnight symbolises the apocalypse. But the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which rules over the positioning of the clock, has announced it will be setting a new time on Thursday.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will have the world’s eyes on them tomorrow morning as a crucial decision about the movement of the minute hand is made. The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic timepiece that represents the countdown to a catastrophic event occurring, such as nuclear war or life-ending climate change. The last time it was moved – bringing into three minutes to midnight – was in January 2015 due to unmanaged “climate change, global nuclear weapons modernisations and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals”. Last year, it was kept in the same position because of the continued threat levels. But tomorrow, that could all be changed as the Atomic Scientists announce if it is going a minute forward – bringing us just “120 seconds” from Armageddon. And it looks as though Mankind is definitely doomed.

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