BACKERS of a clean break Brexit today condemned suggestions Britain may offer to continue regular payments to Brussels until 2020 in exchange for good trade terms. UK negotiators are understood to be contemplating an arrangement under which Britain would contribute billions more after we leave, to fill the large black hole our departure will punch in EU finances. Paying until the end of the decade would be painted as Britain honouring the commitments it entered into when agreeing the EU’s seven-year 2014-2020 budget framework. The payments would be agreed only in return for a “sensible” transition deal giving British firms continued access to the single market for two years after Brexit. British negotiators are also said not to have ruled out “ongoing payments” in exchange for a free trade deal.
Britain will be bound by European human rights laws for another five years with the Conservatives expected to abandon a pledge to withdraw the UK from the ECHR. Theresa May is expected to make no mention in the Tory election manifesto of pulling out of the European Convention on Human Rights. Mrs May, who served as home secretary from 2010 to 2016, said last year she wanted to quit the ECHR, which for a time frustrated her plans to extradite the hate preacher Abu Qatada. She was expected to write the commitment into the Conservative manifesto meaning that Britain would be committed to withdrawing by the end of the next parliament, in 2022. However, senior Government figures have told The Telegraph they expect Mrs May to drop the commitment because it would be a major distraction for her Government from the Brexit negotiations.
Theresa May is to drop a pledge to pull the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Prime Minister said she wanted to leave the convention while she was Home Secretary, saying it frustrated her plans to deport hate preacher Abu Qatada. But in her new role at Number 10, she is expected to drop the pledge from the new Conservative manifesto, deeming it a distraction to Brexit negotiations. The Telegraph reports this would leave Britain tied to the convention for another five years, until 2022. At the end of December last year, the Prime Minister said she would be committed to pulling out of the ECHR, laying out plans for a 2020 manifesto. She intended to enshrine the same rights in UK law, cutting off the overriding power from the Strasbourg court.
A majority of Britons oppose a unilateral guarantee for EU citizens living in the UK to be able to remain in the country after Brexit, a Sky Data poll suggests. It comes as Labour said they would give such a guarantee on their first day in office were they win to the General Election on 8 June. Some 55% oppose such a deal; 44% say that they should only get it if UK citizens in other EU countries get the same guarantee, as the Conservatives have argued; while 11% do not think EU citizens should be given such a guarantee even then. Just under a third (29%) said they backed a unilateral guarantee, while 16% were unsure.
Theresa May shared a joke with the EU chief of staff after telling the chief Brexit negotiator that Britain wants a ‘deep and special partnership’ during their first face-to-face meeting. The Prime Minister met with Michel Barnier and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker at a working dinner in Downing Street tonight. After the dinner, she was caught throwing her head back and laughing at a joke made in the Number 10 corridor, but Martin Selmayr, head of cabinet for President Juncker. Prime Minister May told the pair at dinner that Britain is committed ‘to achieving a deep and special partnership with the European Union’. ‘The PM had a constructive meeting this evening with President Juncker of the European Commission,’ the spokesperson said in a statement.
EUROPEAN Union boss Jean-Claude Juncker and his Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier left Downing Street looking stoney-faced following the first set of exit talks with Theresa May. The duo entered Number 10 with a grin for a working dinner to discuss Brexit this evening but left after an hour and 45 minutes looking like Mrs May had really put them through their paces. Without looking at the awaiting photographers, EU Commission President Mr Juncker gave a perfunctory wave as he strode purposefully towards his car, with Mr Barnier following closely behind. The two then encountered an awkward moment when they both attempted to get into the same side of the car before Mr Juncker ordered his colleague to go to the other door.
Theresa May has told EU leaders she wants a “deep and special relationship” with the bloc after holding talks with Brussels chiefs in Downing Street. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU’s main Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, had dinner with the Prime Minister and David Davis, in what was described as a “constructive” meeting. Few details about the content of the discussion were released, but the forthcoming EU summit this weekend is likely to have featured. “The PM had a constructive meeting this evening with President Juncker of the European Commission,” a spokesperson for Ms May said in a statement.
Business leaders will warn on Thursday that disputes over an EU divorce settlement worth “tens of billions of euros” risk jeopardising hundreds of billions worth of trade every year if they lead Brexit talks to collapse. In a speech at Cambridge University, CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn is expected to urge negotiators on both sides to focus instead on the mutual benefits of continued free trade as they begin talks that will lead to Britain’s departure from the European Union. Leaders of the remaining 27 member states are due to meet this Saturday in Brussels for a Brexit summit that will finalise their negotiating stance and confirm EU demands for broad agreement on a financial settlement before trade talks can begin.
BREXIT negotiator Guy Verhofstadt today delivered an extraordinary ultimatum to Hungary’s prime minister saying the country could no longer keep taking EU money whilst refusing to obey the rules of the club. The former Belgian prime ministers launched a scathing attack on Viktor Orban, comparing him to notorious Communist dictators Josep Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev and branding his right-wing Government cowardly and paranoid. Mr Verhofstadt erupted in fury following a fiery speech Mr Orban gave to the EU parliament in Strasbourg in which he derided the EU’s “absurd” meddling in his country’s affairs and said he did not like the way the bloc operates. The Hungarian PM had travelled to the Belgian capital to “defend” his administration from criticism by eurocrats, who have opened infringement proceedings against him over a number of policy changes they say contravene EU law.
European leaders should stop focusing on securing a hefty “divorce settlement” from the UK and start hammering out a post-Brexit a trade deal, Britain’s leading business group will say on Thursday. Businesses across Europe want the closest possible economic relationship post-Brexit, Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry will say in a speech at Cambridge University. Ms Fairbairn will call on European decision-makers to listen to companies in their respective countries, many of which want politicians to “get on with discussing a new trading relationship”, rather than squeezing Britain. “Far from being about doing the UK a favour, it is based on solid economic reasoning for both sides,” Ms Fairbairn will say. The CBI chief will highlight the “overwhelming shared interest in building the trading relationships which will define our shared future. This is not a zero-sum game,”
Parents are pulling their children out of school religious education lessons because they do not want them taught about Islam, the Church of England said yesterday. Some, Church officials said, hope to shield their children from learning about any faith but Christianity, and others have a particular intention to keep children from any knowledge of Islam. They pointed towards far right political groups and some minority faith sects as activists who are trying to ‘exploit’ the legal right of parents to withdraw their children from school RE. CofE leaders called for the right of withdrawal to be repealed and for RE to become a compulsory part of school timetables to encourage pupils to learn to live with others from different backgrounds.
Specialist children’s wards are being forced to shut in NHS hospitals due to a severe shortage of doctors, “jeopardising” the health of vulnerable young patients, paediatricians have warned. Dozens of paediatric units and hundreds of beds were temporarily closed in the space of a year, with children sent away to other hospitals to receive care, according to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH). Urgent action from the Government is needed to recruit more child health specialists, said Neena Modi, the college’s president. Paediatricians are filling rota gaps by performing the jobs of two or three doctors at once, she warned, meaning “the quality of care people want to deliver is being compromised”. According to a RCPCH report released today, in the year to September 2015 around one third – 31 per cent – of the UK’s 195 NHS trusts and health boards said they had temporarily closed paediatric wards due to staff shortages. Forty-one per cent of neonatal units had to refuse new patients.
A fund created by the Government to help ease the national social care crisis has been dismissed as “little more than a ruse” by a Parliamentary committee. The Better Care Fund has failed to meet all of its targets and has effectively been used to “paper over” funding pressures, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said. In two other health reports the PAC also criticised Government plans to increase access to GPs, and the failure to tackle problems in the ambulance service. The Better Care Fund was established in 2014 and required local authorities and health bodies to pool funding and commit to joint care plans. The aim was to save money, ease pressure on hospitals by cutting the number of emergency admissions and reducing the time patients spend awaiting discharge, known as “bed blocking”. In a report published on Thursday, however, the PAC said it had not achieved any of its goals.
Ambulances are struggling to hand patients over to A&E departments within target times, MPs warn. Too many patients are “waiting too long to be transferred from an ambulance to hospital,” the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has found. Its report on the ambulance service found that the situation has got steadily worse over the past seven years. Transferring patients from an ambulance to A&E should take no longer than 15 minutes, but just 58% of transfers were completed within this time in 2015/16, it was found. This percentage compares with 80% in 2010/11.
Theresa May is leaning towards keeping the triple lock on pensions, despite warnings over its cost, Tory sources said last night. Mrs May repeatedly ducked questions about the fate of the flagship policy yesterday during the last session of Prime Minister’s questions before the election. But senior Tories last night said No 10 was backing away from the ideas of ditching the policy after new projections suggested the financial savings might not be worth the political risk. The triple lock, which was introduced by the Coalition government in 2010, guarantees that the state pension will rise in line with inflation or earnings or by 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest. The guarantee of a 2.5 per cent rise is estimated to have added £18 billion to the pension bill in the last parliament, when inflation was at super-low levels. But, with inflation now running at over two per cent, and likely to continue to do so for several years, ministers have been advised that the savings from scrapping the triple lock would be far smaller.
Theresa May has hinted that the Conservative general election manifesto will attempt to address the looming social care crisis. The Prime Minister said the country needed to “stop ducking the issue” when she was asked what her manifesto would do to address the issue on a visit to Wales on Tuesday. She pledged a “long-term solution” to the crisis but said the Government was taking transitional measures. Mr May said: “We are and have been already working on a long-term solution and that’s what we need in this country, we need to stop ducking the issue we need to ensure we’ve got that long-term solution for a sustainable future for social care.” The PM claimed the Government had put more money into social care as a “short-term” response, and that in the medium term it had allowed councils to increase their council tax to fund the service.
Kent police have passed a file on allegations of electoral expenses fraud to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), it was confirmed today. The CPS will now review evidence before deciding whether to bring charges against the MPs involved. Prosecutors have a year to make the decision to press charges after an inquiry is started – which will run out in early June, just days before the general election. According to local newspapers , the allegations concern Craig Mackinlay, the Tory MP who defeated Nigel Farage in South Thanet. The police began investigating more than two dozen Conservative MPs after the Mirror revealed last March that they had benefited from battle buses packed with party activists but failed to declare the costs. Not declaring all election spending is a criminal offence and the MPs involved and their agents face one year in jail and an unlimited fine if convicted. The Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed that is has received files from 14 separate police forces and is not confirming the names or even numbers of MPs.
Police investigating the 2015 General Election expenses of Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay have sent a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Kent Police confirmed officers had sent the file to its lawyers following an investigation. Mr Mackinlay beat Nigel Farage in the seat of South Thanet two years ago. The CPS will decide whether any charges should be brought against either Mr Mackinlay or his agent. Mr Mackinlay said he had done nothing wrong. In a statement, the MP added: “I have… acted honestly and properly throughout.” Mr Mackinlay has said he plans to stand again in the seat in this year’s general election. Police said officers investigating offences under the Representation of the People’s Act 1983 submitted the file to the CPS earlier this month. The CPS confirmed it had received a file but did not comment further.
Labour is promising to remove the Government’s harsh pay cap for NHS staff to end what it called a “recruitment crisis” threatening patient care. Wage rises for more than one million health service employees – including midwives, nurses, doctors, dentists, paramedics and cleaners – will no longer be limited to one per cent if the party wins the election, it said. Decisions would again be made by independent review bodies, Labour said – making it almost certain that pay would no longer be cut in real terms, because of rising inflation. The pledge forms part of a “three point election guarantee for NHS staff”, including a new legal guarantee of safe staffing levels and “fully funded education”. Under current Conservative plans, the one per cent pay cap will stay in place until 2020 – despite inflation, as measured by the Retail Prices Index, running at 3.2 per cent.
Labour’s dreams of victory now look like pure fantasy with growing evidence that disgruntled UKIP voters plan to switch to the Tories. Analysis by the Mirror reveals that Jeremy Corbyn could lose up to 60 seats to the Tories from the UKIP collapse. A senior Shadow Cabinet source said: “The message on the doorstep so far has been terrible. All the UKIP voters seem to be flocking back to the Tories and it is going to hit us like nothing before.” Polls yesterday showed Theresa May on course for a decisive victory, with the Tories on 49% and Labour on 26%. The Ipsos Mori survey showed UKIP, which won 3.8 million votes and came third in 2015, on just 4%. Our research shows there are dozens of Labour-held marginals which could turn Conservative if the UKIP voters decide to back Mrs May, who has adopted their flagship policies of a hard Brexit and a revival of grammar schools.
The Labour Party has thrown its position on Brexit into further confusion after reneging on a pledge to support ending Free Movement within hours of having made it. Party Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer said that Labour accepted the Brexit vote, and would treat the end of Free Movement – the Single Market mechanism which allows unlimited and effectively unvetted migration between EU member-states – as a “red line” in negotiations with Brussels if it were in power. Just hours later, however, Starmer told the BBC: “We must have immigration that works for our communities and our economy [and] that means there has to be movement of people to come and work in this country.” He added, “The last thing we want is for our businesses to go bankrupt” – indicating that, in his view, it is not reasonable to expect employers to forgo the steady stream of low-wage migrant labour they have enjoyed under the Free Movement regime.
The Green Party has pulled out of a crucial election seat in a bid to help the Labour Party beat the Tories – the first tactical withdrawal of its kind ahead of the general election. The decision is expected to allow more votes to go to Labour MP Rupa Huq, who beat the Conservatives with a majority of just 274 votes in 2015, when no other party managed to attract more than seven per cent of the vote. Green Party members in Ealing — where the party won 1,841 votes in the 2015 election — voted not to field a candidate last week, after Ms Huq promised to campaign for voting reform and the environment. It marks the first “progressive alliance” to be made between opposition parties in which they agree that one side will stand down in order to secure more votes for the other. They will hope to stop the Tories taking overall power on 8 June even if they win the most seats.
The Lib Dems have agreed not to field an election candidate in Brighton, in a bid to help Green co-leader Caroline Lucas get re-elected. The local party made the tactical decision not to oppose the Greens in Brighton Pavilion at a meeting tonight. Labour still intend to field a candidate in the seat in June’s election, with five candidates vying for selection. Lib Dem President Sal Brinton said: “ Liberal Democrats across the country are challenging Theresa May’s Conservative Brexit government. As in previous elections, a limited number of local parties are considering how best to provide that challenge in their constituencies. “In Brighton Pavilion, local Liberal Democrats have decided to pursue that challenge jointly with the local Green Party. we welcome that constructive collaboration.” It comes after the Green Party pulled out of standing in a crucial general election seat – to help Labour beat the Tories.
Richard Branson is bankrolling a campaign to oust MPs who support Brexit, the Mail can reveal. The Virgin boss, who left Britain four years ago to live offshore, has donated tens of thousands of pounds to the plot to influence the election. Gina Miller, the millionaire businesswoman who took the Government to court over Brexit, yesterday promised ‘the biggest tactical voting effort in our history’ as she launched the Best for Britain campaign. More than £300,000 will be poured into up to 100 marginal seats to help elect candidates who do not rule out the country remaining in the EU. Mrs Miller said people need to vote tactically in the General Election to avoid an ‘elected dictatorship’ as she claimed nearly 10,000 people had given money to the ‘grassroots movement’. But today the Mail can reveal the project has been set up in office space provided by Sir Richard and that the businessman given £25,000 to help it launch.
Gina Miller, the London investment manager and prominent pro-European Union campaigner, said on Wednesday she would use 300,000 pounds to encourage Britons to vote tactically for candidates in the upcoming election who opposed a “hard Brexit”. Miller, who in January won a Supreme Court case forcing the government to seek parliamentary approval before triggering Brexit, said Prime Minister Theresa May seemed set on a “hard Brexit” and that financial markets were wrong in presuming that the poll would see her soften her stance. Last week Miller launched the “Best for Britain” campaign to raise money to back candidates in the snap election on June 8 who promised to hold a meaningful vote on May’s final deal with the EU after two-years of divorce talks. In six days, it has raised almost 300,000 pounds and this will be used to support candidates, inform voters, and ensure the “very best technology” to spread the message in areas where tactical voting could affect the result.
Scientists have proved that deadly particles of pollution can get into the bloodstream by asking volunteers to breathe in microscopic specks of gold. Research has shown that particles a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair can pass through the lungs. It was demonstrated for the first time that they gather in the most vulnerable areas of blood vessels. Experts said that the study provided the “missing link” between airborne nanoparticles, often generated by vehicle emissions, and the increase in levels of poor heart health as pollution levels rise. Campaigners said it added fresh weight to their calls for government action on air quality.