For Nigel Farage, it probably couldn’t have turned out better. This afternoon the architect of Brexit left the European Parliament in Brussels for the very last time – and the manner of his departure was sublimely symbolic. There he want, swaggering from the chamber, proudly flourishing a British flag – while a Brussels official furiously berated him for refusing to obey the EU’s rules. What a perfect little scene. The culmination of his life’s mission, in microcosm. For everyone else in Brussels, the day clearly felt strange. After all these years of struggle and stasis, here it was, the final debate on Brexit, followed by a vote to sign off the Withdrawal Agreement – and then that would be it. So long. Farewell. Auf Wiedersehen. Good night.
Nigel Farage was cut off as he delivered his final speech in the European Parliament this afternoon because he and his Brexit Party MEPs started to wave Union flags. Parliament vice-president Mairead McGuinness switched off Mr Farage’s microphone as he was finishing his address as she told the party’s MEPs to ‘put your flags away, you are leaving’. The cheering Brexit Party contingent then proceeded to get up and walk out of the chamber. The stormy clash took place as MEPs rubberstamped the Brexit divorce deal – the final hurdle which needed to be cleared for the UK to leave the EU at 11pm on January 31.
The result was never in doubt. The European parliament voted for the Brexit withdrawal agreement on Wednesday, sealing the UK’s divorce from the European Union after 47 years. When the result flashed up on big screens in the Brussels debating chamber – 621 in favour, 49 against and 13 abstentions – MEPs broke into a chorus of Auld Lang Syne. Some were wearing blue and red scarves that merged the union jack and European flag together. Many linked arms. Most appeared to be joining in – a German MEP had circulated the words in advance.
Brexit Party MEPs were scolded for flag-waving in the European Parliament, marking their last contribution to European democracy. The eurosceptic British MEPs began waving the miniature flags the end of Nigel Farage’s speech to the legislature – his last before Britain leaves on Friday. “Please sit down and take your seats, put your flags away, and take them with you,” the presiding speaker Mairead McGuinness told the MEPs.
MEPs held hands and sang Robert Burn’s Auld Lang Syne after Britain’s Brexit bill was approved by the European Parliament – meaning the UK’s exit deal has passed its final legal hurdle. Politicians held scarves that read “Always United” after MEPs backed the Withdrawal Agreement, which was approved by Parliament last week, by voting 621 for versus 49 against the Brexit deal, with 13 abstentions.
Goodbye, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu. “Pas adieu,” more than one MEP insisted as Brussels began to de-Brit the premises, “mais au revoir.” Not so far as Nigel Farage was concerned. “Good riddance,” was the gist of the Brexit Party leader’s parting shot, followed swiftly by “So long, suckers.” “So this is it,” Mr Farage began as he gave the chamber that batrachoid smirk, a toadish grin that seemed to imply that not only was he moving out but he had stitched some mackerel into the hems of the curtains as a leaving present.
NIGEL FARAGE has warned the EU Brexit may set a precedent for other eurosceptic nations to shun the bloc as voters in member states feel a sense of “impotence”. The Brexit Party leader spoke to Express.co.uk immediately after delivering his last-ever speech in Brussels before the UK quits the bloc on Friday. After issuing a fiery address in which he vowed Brexit was “the final chapter, the end of the road of a 47-year political experiment that the British have never been happy with”, Nigel Farage warned other EU nations may follow the UK’s lead as voters in member states grow exasperated with the “power wielded by EU bodies”.
The BBC and other broadcasters are in a stand-off with No 10 over the Prime Minister’s plan to address the nation as Britain leaves the European Union. Boris Johnson intends to break with a long-standing tradition by using his personal videographer to record the historic message, bypassing the media. The BBC said it will not guarantee that Mr Johnson’s address will be aired. The message is understood to take the form of a “fireside chat”, urging the nation to embrace Brexit. No 10 then plans to hand out the prerecorded footage for use on air.
EUROPEAN Parliament Vice-President appeared to reveal the EU’s plot to build a super nation following Nigel Farage’s speech. Mr Farage gave his final speech in the European Parliament before the UK leaves the trade bloc on January 31. Following his final speech, however, Mr Farage was accused of using the word “hate” towards other nations according to Vice President of EU Parliament, Mairead McGuinness. She said: “The word hate was used in the last contribution. “But considering what we have listened to prior to this, we should not hate anyone or any nation or any people.”
Senior Member of European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt has made the extraordinary assessment that the lessons to be learnt from Brexit is for Brussels to push for ‘More Europe’ and to take away even more democracy from nation-states. Speaking ahead of the European Parliament’s vote on the UK-EU withdrawal deal on Wednesday, Mr Verhofstadt rejected the notion that the lesson to be learnt from Brexit is to devolve power back to the nation-state but to give more power to Brussels.
Boris Johnson will tell the EU he is prepared to accept post-Brexit border checks rather than allowing Britain to be a rule-taker in a major speech setting out his aims for a trade deal next week. The Prime Minister will say sovereignty is more important than frictionless trade, defying warnings from Brussels that the UK must accept EU standards on goods if it wants the best possible deal. Whitehall sources have told The Daily Telegraph that while Mr Johnson wants to avoid tariffs and quotas on cross-Channel trade, he will never cave in to demands for alignment on regulations, despite knowing “the consequences that flow from that”.
BREXIT Party MEPs have reacted furiously during their last day in Brussels after EU chief Ursula von der Leyen stated there would be a “pre-condition” on any future trade agreements. Several Brexit Party MEPs including leader Nigel Farage and Ann Widdecombe heckled the President of the European Commission after Ms von der Leyen stated British and EU companies would continue to operate on a “level playing field”. In her final speech before Britain exits the European Union, Ms von der Leyen said: “We also know we have to sort out how to deal with the UK as a third country.
FOREIGN boats will need a licence to fish in British waters after Brexit, it was announced yesterday. The requirement forms part of a new fisheries law that was introduced into parliament that will give the UK greater control over its maritime areas. The Fisheries Bill means EU vessels will have to abide by UK law if they enter UK waters and will end any automatic right the boats formerly held. It will be the first time since 1973 that Britain will have been able to control which fishing vessels enter its waters.
Plans to rescue about 200 Britons from a Chinese province gripped by the deadly coronavirus have collapsed after an emergency flight was cancelled without notice last night. Britons in Wuhan, the quarantined city at the centre of the epidemic, had been told that they would be brought home today but the Foreign Office said the airlift had been postponed, The Times understands. An Asian aircraft that appeared to have been chartered by the British government was due to take off at 10.30am local time with about 200 people on board.
The travel plans of tens of thousands of passengers have been thrown into chaos after British Airways cancelled all flights to and from mainland China. The airline said it made the unprecedented decision in the wake of Foreign Office guidance warning against all but essential travel to the mainland in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. ‘The safety of our customers and crew is always our priority,’ BA said in a statement.
A planned flight to bring British nationals back to the UK from coronavirus-hit Wuhan will not take place on Thursday, the Foreign Office has confirmed. The British government had anticipated flying around 200 UK citizens out of the country but it is understood Chinese officials have not yet granted permission for the chartered flight to depart. It comes as World Health Organisation (WHO) warned the “whole world needs to be on alert” as it reconsiders whether to declare a global health emergency.
BRITISH Airways has halted all its flights to and from China as the coronavirus death toll continues to rise. It comes as the Government rushed to finalise plans to evacuate Brits from the outbreak epicentre of Wuhan – with sources saying all evacuees will be quarantined for TWO weeks. “We have suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect following advice from the Foreign Office against all but essential travel,” said British Airways spokeswoman.
Boris Johnson today slammed Nicola Sturgeon‘s ‘fanciful and deranged’ demand for Scotland to get powers over visas after Brexit. The PM lashed out after the SNP leader said immigration from the EU must continue north of the border because the economy needs workers. Under her preferred blueprint, migrants would apply separately to the Scottish Government for a visa to live only in Scotland and Holyrood would recommend applicants to the Home Office.
MSPs have backed Nicola Sturgeon‘s calls for a second Scottish independence referendum later this year in a vote at Holyrood. The Scottish parliament passed a motion demanding that Boris Johnson allow another referendum on Scotland’s place in the UK, pointing to Brexit as a “material change in circumstances” since the 2014 vote. The motion, backed by 64 votes to 54, now calls on the UK government to “reach an agreement with the Scottish government on such a referendum taking place on a date and in a manner determined by the Scottish Parliament”.
NICOLA STURGEON has secured a major victory in her bid to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence, as MSPs backed another public vote. The leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) has made it her mission to give Scots another say on their future in the United Kingdom later this year. This afternoon, Holyrood voted 64 to 54 to agree that circumstances have changed since the 2014 indyref, and that “a referendum should be held”. The vote, which is not binding, comes after Boris Johnson this month slapped down Ms Sturgeon’s formal request to hold another referendum.
The Scottish government has narrowly won a vote to keep the EU flag flying over the Edinburgh parliament building after Brexit, despite being accused of undermining the impartial status of Holyrood’s governing body. The result came at the end of a fractious afternoon in the Holyrood chamber, with the Scottish National party government facing heavy criticism for taking up parliamentary time with the flag motion and another debate about independence, which was likewise won by a small margin.
There will be 56 more Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland bank branches to be closed between April and October this year, triggering around 80 job losses. Lloyds Banking Group has already axed 569 bank branches up and down the country in the last two years, but today marks the first time it has announced new closures since last August. In a bid to reassure customers, the group said affected customers would still be able to access its services via Post Office branches and mobile sites which ‘visit many rural communities.’
One in four students received a “conditional unconditional” university offer last summer, figures show today. A growing number of universities locked in sixth-formers by guaranteeing them places no matter how they performed in their A levels if they promised to put the university as first choice before their results. These conditional unconditionals are likely to decline this year according to Ucas, the admissions service that produced the report, but its figures show today that 33 universities made strings-attached offers last year, up from 29 a year earlier.
Schools must spend a minimum amount on each pupil under a law unveiled by Boris Johnson last night. Every secondary school will be told to spend at least £5,000 per pupil annually, while for primaries the limit will be £3,750 – rising to £4,000 next year. For the first time, councils will be required by law to make sure every school gets the full amount of the minimum levels of funding pledged for each pupil, as set out by the Prime Minister during his first 100 days.
A guarantee will be put into law that all schools in England receive minimum funding in future. All secondary schools will get £5,000 per pupil and all primary schools £3,730 per pupil, rising to £4,000 next year under legislation laid before parliament yesterday. Local authorities will be required by law to make sure every school receives the full minimum level of funding. Previously local authorities had more powers to allocate the money and some schools fell below these minimum levels per pupil.
The BBC must aim its news coverage at the under-35s or give up on the licence fee, one of its most senior executives has said, as the corporation announced 450 job cuts and warned every news presenter that they are at risk. Fran Unsworth, head of news and current affairs, said BBC News has been “super-serving” middle-aged, middle class audiences and must go after young viewers and listeners from all backgrounds. From now on, its focus will be on providing online news that is “relevant for the people we are not currently reaching”. More “traditional” television and radio programmes will be slimmed down or cut.
BBC News’ Director, News & Current Affairs, Fran Unsworth, is leading a meeting explaining the ‘modernisation’ of the BBC to around 130 employees in the room, and many more elsewhere watching on an internal live stream. She has announced 450 job losses… The major restructuring will focus on pooling resources into “multi-skilled story teams”, instead of the current farce of the BBC sending multiple news crews to the same event to cover it for different programmes. At major events such as party conferences sometimes the bloated BBC contingent is as numerous as all the rest of the media combined.
High profile and highly paid BBC presenters are facing the axe after a cull of 450 jobs in the corporation’s news department was unveiled yesterday. Staff were left reeling at the scale of the cutbacks, which will see around one in 13 roles go and are part of an £80million savings programme. Newsnight, BBC2’s flagship current affairs show, is among the programmes bearing the brunt of the cuts, along with popular radio station Radio 5 Live and the World Service, which will lose 50 roles.
The BBC is cutting 450 jobs as part of a drastic modernisation plan under which it will cover fewer news stories. Fran Unsworth, director of news and current affairs, was challenged on the rationale behind the cuts by Victoria Derbyshire, whose programme is being axed, in a tempestuous staff meeting this afternoon. Posts are also being cut at Newsnight and Radio 5 Live, the BBC confirmed.
Sajid Javid will tell Boris Johnson that HS2 should go ahead in a move that significantly increases the likelihood of the £106 billion project being approved. The Chancellor is the most senior minister to date to come down decisively on the side of the controversial high speed rail project that has caused deep divisions in the Conservative Party. He will meet the Prime Minister and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Thursday to discuss HS2 in what appears to be a decisive moment for the project’s future.
Boris Johnson is poised to approve HS2 as part of his attempt to “level up” Britain in a move that will put him at odds with his most senior adviser. The prime minister will hold meetings today with Sajid Javid, the chancellor, and Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, before deciding the project’s future. He is expected to announce within days that the project should go ahead but make significant cost-savings amid concerns that the final bill will exceed £100 billion.
CABINET ministers have urged Boris Johnson to make a decision on HS2 now as it has become “the new Brexit” that is splitting the Tory party. Senior ministers close to the PM fear his six month long review into whether the high speed new rail line should go ahead has opened up a deep chasm among MPs and members. In extraordinary scenes yesterday, angry Tory MPs loudly openly barracked each other about it during PMQs. One Cabinet minister told The Sun: “HS2 is the new Brexit.
The chancellor, Sajid Javid, is set to throw his weight behind the controversial HS2 rail project. Mr Javid is minded to support the high speed train initiative at a meeting with prime minister Boris Johnson and transport secretary Grant Shapps on Thursday. The PA news agency understands that, having reviewed costs and alternatives, the chancellor will “broadly back” the high-speed line from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. Mr Shapps has insisted that no decision on the controversial infrastructure project – the biggest in Europe – will be announced this week.
Boris Johnson has been called on by three new Tory MPs in northern seats to end the “dither and delay” over HS2 and approve the project. During prime minister’s questions Mr Johnson was repeatedly challenged to make a “positive” decision and end “decades of disruption”. He told the MPs that there would be an announcement on HS2 “very shortly”. The issue is highly divisive in Downing Street, the cabinet and the wider Conservative Party. Senior figures at No 10 including Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s most senior adviser, and Andrew Gilligan, his transport adviser, are opposed to the project.