BRUSSELS is willing to scrap its demand for the European Court Justice to oversee a Brexit deal on citizens’ rights – in a first potential coup for Theresa May. Sources claimed the EU is no longer wedded to the idea of the ECJ being an “ultimate arbiter” of the agreement. But they told Bloomberg they hope the PM will improve the package on offer to EU nationals in the UK in return. This could include allowing EU citizens in the UK to bring in partners or spouses without having to meet an income threshold test post 2019. Theresa May last week signalled she was willing to give the EU a better deal if Brussels allowed UK courts to oversee the deal. But senior Tories have hinted a separate “oversight body” could be set up in a compromise, with one claiming: “It’s a serious option.”
Ministers are looking at creating a new body to oversee EU citizens’ rights in the UK in an effort to break the impasse over whose courts protect EU nationals after Brexit. A Government source told Sky News that a new oversight body for EU citizens was shaping up as a “serious option” in a bid to find a compromise between the European Commission and the UK over who should protect EU citizens living in the UK. The issue of legal oversight has become a sticking point in negotiations, with Theresa May rejecting the EU’s position that the European Court of Justice should be the arbiter of any future disputes over citizens’ rights.
Suggestions the the Government are willing to create an UK/EU body to oversee the rights of EU citizens in the UK post Brexit have been denounced by UKIP. Peter Jewell, the UKIP Justice spokesman responded, “Has the Tory Government flipped their lid completely, what happened to “Brexit means Brexit”? It seems that Michel Barnier the EU’s chief negotiator expects that EU citizens rights should be enforced by the ECJ. At least Mrs May has rejected that. Government sources are now suggesting that Mrs May is going soft and is willing to have some sort of joint tribunal with the EU to sit in Judgement of such matters. This is a watered down compromise and UKIP say it is unacceptable. Why should British people be subject to one law and EU citizens resident in the UK another law? Sorry it will only mean more bureaucracy, more cost and special treatment. Our Courts may not be perfect and right every time but that is why we have many appeal processes I would rather have our British Judges any day. It is a fundamental aspect of civil society that people should be treated equally by the law, having this body can only mean that EU citizens living in the UK would have different rights.
ANY phasing deals made between Britain and the European Union to smooth the Brexit path for businesses will be strictly time-limited, Theresa May promised today. The Prime Minister spoke in the Commons amid claims of disagreement between Brexit Secretary David Davis and Chancellor Philip Hammond on how Britain’s departure should take place. Brexit campaigner Mr Davis has said Britain will leave the single market and customs union when it leaves the EU, likely in March 2019. Remain backer Mr Hammond wants a transitional deal beyond Brexit to avoid businesses facing a “cliff edge” of suddenly changing trade rules with the Continent. The different emphases saw Downing Street step in on Tuesday to stress both men opposed a “cliff edge” and wanted to give firms certainty, and that “phases of implementation” for leaving the customs union were for the ongoing negotiations with Brussels.
The UK’s plans to introduce mandatory biometric residence identity cards for EU nationals and new rules on family members joining them are expected to prove major flashpoints in the next set of Brexit talks in a fortnight’s time, a leading British MEP has warned. Claude Moraes, chairman of the European parliament’s civil liberties committee and a member of the parliament’s Brexit steering committee, says the UK offer on citizens’ rights has introduced a number of unexpected stumbling blocks into the negotiations, particularly those which seem to leave EU nationals as “second-class” citizens in Britain. He says in particular that the mandatory nature of the British requirement for 3.2 million EU nationals in Britain to apply for biometric ID residence documents declaring their “settled status” is likely to face tough opposition from the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.
The UK’s departure from the EU will leave a budget shortfall of at least €10bn (£8.8bn; $11.4bn), the budget commissioner has warned. Günther Oettinger said the bloc must either spend less or find new money to fill the gap, equivalent to an estimated 16% of the entire budget. Among the options on the table could be less generous payments to farmers or a tax on financial transactions. “A big country, a net contributor is leaving,” Mr Oettinger said. “That must have consequences.” Mr Oettinger said each euro spent must have a positive impact on people’s lives, as he presented a discussion paper on the EU’s future. Negotiations are under way for the UK to leave the EU by the end of March 2019, following last year’s referendum vote.
BREXIT will leave the EU with a near £20BILLION hole in its finances, officials revealed yesterday – handing Theresa May a huge trump card. Budget Commissioner Gunter Oettinger said Brexit meant Brussels would lose out on the £10billion a year from the UK. But he added the actual gap in the finances could be TWICE as big given the need to spend more on defence and migration. Mr Oettinger warned Brussels may have to slash the £35 billion a year handouts to farmers – and said “hard choices” have to be made. And the EU mooted the idea of “common” taxes levied directly by Brussels.
EU officials were last night warned to brace themselves for “hard choices” ahead when Brexit leave a massive hole in the annual Brussels budget. The UK’s expected departure from the EU in 2019 will cost the bloc between £8billion and £10.5billion a year, a European Commission discussion document said. It urged EU leaders to consider drastic measures including tax rises within the 27 member states and a radical overhaul of farming subsidies to make up the short fall. Euro-sceptics suggested the looming cash crisis in Brussels will boost Theresa May’s chances of agreeing a good trade deal. The alarm call was delivered in a “reflection paper” on the future of EU finances written by the bloc’s budget commissioner Gunther Oettinger and regional policy commissioner Corina Cretu.
Eurocrats trying to fill a £10 billion black hole in their finances came up with their solution yesterday: Everyone must face cuts – except them. They insisted their generous pay, pensions and perks must stay intact because their work is vital for the European Union to function as Britain leaves the bloc. However they proposed the introduction of tax-raising powers across the remaining 27 member states. EU chiefs yesterday admitted that widespread reforms were needed to replace the current one-trillion euro budget because of the loss of Britain’s net annual contributions after Brexit. Budget commissioner Gunther Oettinger said: ‘We will have a gap of ten to 11billion euros a year. Cuts will be necessary over the next decade. We can’t act like it is business as usual so we need to look at shifting expenditure and costs.’
Dozens of schools have provoked anger by threatening to cut the teaching week short, blaming the decision on Government cuts. Headteachers claimed they may have no choice but to close early on one or more days to cut down on staffing costs amid a budget squeeze. The proposals would cause chaos for working parents, who could have to pay for extra childcare or clock off early. It is also feared the reduced hours could have a negative effect on children’s education, as in some cases it may add up to three weeks less per year. A primary school in Leicestershire has become the first to confirm plans to send pupils home at lunchtime on Fridays from this October. In a letter to parents, Danemill Primary School in Enderby proposed pupils finish at 1.05pm – two hours and 15 minutes early – to allow staff to prepare for lessons.
Public sector pay
The government’s austerity plans were thrown into confusion today after ministers signalled the public sector pay cap was being scrapped – only for No10 to backtrack on the idea. Cabinet ministers suggested this morning that the 1 per cent limit on rises, which has been in force since 2010, was being abandoned. Senior Tory sources later indicated that the shift was under way. But within hours Downing Street insisted: ‘The policy has not changed.’ Chancellor Philip Hammond is thought to have been infuriated at being bounced into a move that would potentially leave a huge hole in his Budget plans.
MPs have voted against a Labour amendment to the Queen’s Speech to force the Government to drop the pay cap on public service workers. The vote was the first test of Theresa May’s minority Government. The $1 billion funding deal with the DUP helped see off the Labour proposal by 323 votes to 309, a majority of 14. Earlier the Government had confirmed the long-standing pay cap on public sector salaries would stay, despite earlier suggestions it could be scrapped. Labour accused the Government of a “shambles” amid the confusion surrounding the future of the 1% cap on annual rises.
Philip Hammond, the chancellor, faces a cabinet revolt over public sector pay as ministers demand an end to the 1 per cent wage cap on five million workers. Sir Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, and Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, called for the easing of the central austerity measure yesterday. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is to add to the pressure within days, using a meeting to urge Mr Hammond to agree a more generous deal for nurses. Justine Greening, the education secretary and an ally of the prime minister, is pressing for more cash to head off a rebellion by Tory MPs over a reorganisation of school funding. A 1 per cent public sector pay rise cap has been in place since 2012.
The Government’s austerity policy descended into chaos today as Downing Street suggested it was ready to abandon a 1 per cent cap on public sector pay rises, only to insist hours later that the cap remained in place. The “U-turn on a U-turn” was blamed on the ongoing “war” between Theresa May and Philip Hammond, after the Treasury reportedly demanded a retraction of the announcement. It led to speculation that the Chancellor had been intending to claim credit for the policy change at his next budget. Three Cabinet ministers appeared to have been briefed that the pay cap was coming to an end as they openly talked about the need to consider lifting it, and Sir Oliver Letwin, the influential backbench MP, even went into detail about how taxes would have to be increased to fund it. Number 10 then backed up their comments in a lunchtime briefing by saying it was ready to “listen” to voters who had made it clear they were “weary” of the spending squeeze. A spokesman added that ministers were “working through” the recommendations of independent pay review bodies and that a decision would be taken at a future budget.
Theresa May looked set for a major U-turn after signalling the Government could review the cap on public sector pay. Downing Street officials said ministers have “heard the message” from the general election and know that voters are “weary” of austerity. But in a sign of how politically difficult abandoning the cap will be for a Conservative party still committed to abolishing the deficit, Number 10 sources later tried to play down talk of an imminent change. Pay levels for nurses, teachers and police officers have been held back since 2010 and were set to be until at least 2019, but wage restraint could now be reviewed within months. There has been intense pressure to reverse austerity from Labour, NHS staff and others who are warning lives are at risk from continued cuts, while a series of emergencies has also thrust the role of public sector workers into the spotlight.
Talks to restore a power-sharing devolved government in Northern Ireland are on course to fail after Sinn Féin accused the Democratic Unionist party of refusing to budge in its opposition to an Irish language act. Sinn Féin also dismissed suggestions that the discussions could be extended beyond Thursday’s deadline when, if there is no agreement, Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire may reimpose direct rule from London. This would entail London-appointed Tory ministers running Northern Ireland’s devolved departments and also carving up the £1bn-plus aid package the DUP extracted from the Conservatives as the price for putting Theresa May back into Downing Street. The party’s stance in the ongoing negotiations, which are expected to last late into Wednesday night, suggest the political discussions will probably not produce an agreement in Belfast.
POWERSHARING talks in Northern Ireland appeared to be going to the wire today as the UK Government warning of “profound and serious” consequences if they fail. Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire made it clear that the UK Government will have to impose direct rule if the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein cannot come to an agreement. The minister also assured MPs that he would not be involved in the coordination group between the Conservatives and DUP on the confidence and supply agreement in Westminster so he could maintain his impartial position in the Stormont talks. Labour and SNP MPs had attempted to use the Tory/ DUP deal and a political weapon claiming that it put the Northern Ireland peace process in peril. However, as talks between the main parties continued it emerged that one of the sticking points was whether the Irish Gaelic and Ulster Scots languages should be put on a legal par with English in Northern Ireland. The parties have until 4pm on Thursday to nominate ministers or face the prospect of some version of direct rule from Westminster or yet another assembly election.
Sinn Féin has called on the British and Irish governments to intervene to help break the deadlock in Stormont’s power-sharing negotiations. John O’Dowd said they must inject “leadership and energy” into the talks. But the DUP’s Edwin Poots said that “one party cannot deliver this process on its own”. Talks to restore Northern Ireland’s devolved government are going down to the wire, with the parties having until 16:00 BST on Thursday to reach a deal. If agreement is not reached by the deadline, which is set down in law, Northern Ireland faces the prospect of a return of direct rule from London.
A TOP scientist has announced a dire warning for us humans on Earth – a 40 million tonne asteroid is set to smash into us. Space boffins discovered the enormous rock, called Apophis, back in 2004 but this week a scientist has revealed his fears the Earth is in major danger. Alberto Cellino, of the Observatory of Turin in Italy, believes it will pass extremely close to our planet in 2029 and will swing back around again in 2036. He fears it’ll be so close that an impact can’t be ruled out for 19 years time. Back when it was discovered in 2004 at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. At that time, astronomers calculated that the 1,214 feet-wide rock had a 2.7% chance of hitting Earth on April 13, 2029. But after missing the planet by 18,600 miles it is not known how it will be affected by gravity – so when it swings around it could collide.