Brexit

Telegraph
Theresa May threatened to withdraw cooperation with the EU on security on Wednesday as France and Germany refused to begin trade talks before Britain agrees to pay a Brexit “divorce bill”. The Prime Minister had started the day by talking of a “deep and special partnership” with post-Brexit Europe, but within hours, senior EU, German and French figures refused to meet one of the Government’s key demands. Nine months after Britain voted to leave the EU, the countdown on a two-year negotiating period began when Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, was handed a letter by Sir Tim Barrow, Britain’s permanent representative at the EU, invoking Article 50 at lunchtime.

Times
Theresa May was accused last night of blackmail after she warned that the fight against crime and terrorism would be undermined if the EU refused to strike a Brexit deal with Britain. The prime minister adopted a conciliatory tone as she triggered Article 50 yesterday. However, she said that the consequences of the talks ending in failure would cause more than economic damage to both sides. “In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened,” she wrote in her letter to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council.

Mail
Theresa May was accused last night of trying to blackmail the EU over a Brexit trade deal. In a show of steel that angered Brussels, the Prime Minister suggested she could withdraw co-operation on security unless a fair agreement was struck. She used her Article 50 letter, which launches a two-year divorce process, to warn the EU against trying to damage Britain at such a dangerous time. The 28-state bloc leans heavily on UK intelligence and policing expertise. Mrs May’s warning was described as tantamount to blackmail by Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator. EU leaders quickly said they would block Mrs May’s demand for a trade deal to be negotiated alongside the terms of Britain’s departure.

Independent
Theresa May’s Brexit launch suffered a series of heavy blows after key planks of her opening strategy were point-blank rejected by Europe’s top politicians. German chancellor Angela Merkel publically dismissed her plan to begin talks on a lucrative trade deal, saying negotiations on Britain’s EU divorce – including a bill potentially hitting €60bn – must come first. European Parliament negotiator Guy Verhofstadt then brushed off what was described by others as Ms May’s “blatant threat” to withdraw British terror and crime-fighting co-operation, in order to extract a good trade deal. Asked if he thought Ms May was engaged in “blackmail”, the European Parliament’s co-ordinator for Brexit said: “I try to be a gentleman, so towards a lady I don’t even use or think about the word ‘blackmail’.”

Guardian
Theresa May warned European leaders that failure to reach a comprehensive Brexit agreement will result in a weakening of cooperation on crime and security, triggering accusations that her remarks amounted to blackmail. Senior figures in Brussels complained about the prime minister’s remarks, while critics in Westminster also piled in, arguing that the prime minister had issued a “blatant threat” and was treating security as a “bargaining chip” in negotiations. The long-anticipated article 50 letter, hand-delivered by Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s EU ambassador, to the European council president, Donald Tusk, stressed that the British government’s prime desire was to maintain a “deep and special partnership” with the EU27. But the Conservative leader also suggested that a final divorce agreement would need to take in both economic and security cooperation and issued a clear warning about the potential fallout if the talks failed.

Times
Ministers will admit today that they need to change up to 1,000 pieces of legislation within the next two years to prepare the UK for Brexit. In an unprecedented parliamentary undertaking, the government will set out plans to convert or repeal hundreds of items of EU legislation on the statute book. Ministers hope to push through many of the changes through secondary legislation that is not normally voted on by MPs and Lords. However such legislation, known as statutory instruments, can easily be used by opposition parties to ambush the government and has the potential to tie up ministers in parliamentary battles for years. “We are going to launch a legislative war,” the Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, said.

Terror alert

Mail
Eurostar passengers were banned from taking liquids on board with them in a terror alert this week. Furious travellers were forced to discard expensive perfumes, alcohol and toiletries at check-in at Brussels on Tuesday morning without any prior warning. Security checks were also tightened up and extra officers deployed after Belgian federal police received a warning of a potential threat to the 10.56am Brussels to London service. The scare came on the day the Prime Minister’s Brexit letter was reportedly delivered to the Belgian capital aboard Eurostar. Normally Eurostar places no limit on the amount of liquids which can be carried on the service, with the international rail service’s official website telling passengers they can ‘even squeeze in a bottle of bubbly’.

EU

Times
Theresa May’s appeal for parallel exit and trade talks fell on deaf ears yesterday as Angela Merkel said that Britain should disentangle itself from the EU first. Mrs May had hoped to speed up the Brexit process by insisting that it was “necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU”. Within hours the German chancellor responded that all the key principles of Britain’s exit agreement had to be settled before the new relationship could be discussed. This left room for overlapping talks on both leaving and the new deal, but foreshadowed months of haggling over the exit terms.

Independent
The EU will vow to act “as one” to minimise the damage caused by Brexit on the rest of the bloc, according to a leaked draft of the joint statement which will be issued in response to Britain triggering Article 50. Donald Tusk, as President of the European Council, will deliver the statement after the EU formally receives Theresa May’s notification letter, at around 12.30pm BST. According to a leaked version seen by the EURACTIV website, the European Council will emphasise the need to reach a comprehensive divorce deal before any discussions of future trade can begin. Mr Tusk will say the EU’s first priority is to “minimise the uncertainty caused by the decision of the United Kingdom for our citizens, businesses and member states”. “Therefore, we will start by focusing on all key arrangements for an orderly withdrawal,” the statement will say.

Guardian
Angela Merkel has rejected one of Theresa May’s key Brexit demands, insisting negotiations on Britain’s exit from the European Union cannot run in parallel with talks on the future UK-EU relationship. “The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship,” the German chancellor said in Berlin. “Only when this question is dealt with can we – hopefully soon after – begin talking about our future relationship.” In her six-page letter triggering article 50 and formally launching the process of leaving the EU, the prime minister said she believed it was “necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the European Union”.

Mirror
Angela Merkel dealt an instant blow to Theresa May’s Brexit plan today as she appeared to reject one of the Prime Minister’s key demands. In her six-page letter triggering Article 50 , Mrs May called for talks on a new UK-EU relationship “alongside” those on the terms of withdrawal. But Germany’s leader – an influential figure in the EU – said the two stages must be treated separately, respected European news agency AFP reported. It quoted the German Chancellor as saying: “The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship. “And only when this question is dealt with, can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship.” This appeared to contradict the text of Mrs May’s letter to European Council president Donald Tusk , where she mentioned parallel talks four times.

Sun
ANGRY EU leaders accused Theresa May of trying to blackmail them over co-ordination on terrorism. Downing Street insisted the PM was just making a “statement of fact” as there would no longer be any interaction between the UK and Brussels without a new agreement. But in a tongue-in-cheek jibe, European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt said: “I cannot, as a gentleman, even imagine that a lady as Mrs May is using blackmail, is thinking of blackmail.” 
He added: “Our security is far too important to start bargaining it against an economic agreement.”

Westmonster
Confirming just how out of touch the EU’s Mickey Mouse Parliament is, several MEPs are already briefing about their intention to draft a resolution  insisting that Brexit can still be stopped. Green MEP Phillipe Lamberts from Belgium, apparently without any sense of irony, has said: “We do not want to close the door to common sense.” There is apparently talk of a vote in the European Parliament to push the notion that Brexit can be reversed. This really is all rather sad. Those MEPS who still believe in the project are looking completely at odds with reality. The brave new Brexit world that we are shifting towards is leaving so many EU nationalists looking downright delusional. They may not be big fans of democracy, but it is time for even the most diehard Eurocrats to accept that Brexit is happening.

Independent
Angela Merkel has dealt an instant blow to Theresa May’s plan for Brexit by rejecting the PM’s plan for trade talks to take place at the same time as Article 50 secession negotiations. Britain will be put into the slow lane for discussions about any future trade deal with the EU following an intervention by the German Chancellor, who intervened just hours after the UK invoked Article 50. Ms May had called for talks on a future comprehensive trade deal between the EU and UK to take place at the same time as the so-called ‘Article 50’ talks on how Britain will exit the bloc. Ms Merkel today however said that talks on British divorce terms would take place first, after which talks on a future relationship would “hopefully soon” take place. The intervention could potentially make the Brexit process significantly more arduous for the UK.

Express
THE European Parliament could veto any future Brexit deal agreed with Brussels if the UK attempts to carry out trade negotiations with countries outside the bloc before Spring 2019, a bombshell document reveals tonight. Euro MPs have produced a seven page list of their demands for the upcoming talks and have made it clear they will vote down the final agreement if both sides do not comply with them. In their draft resolution they call for the UK to sign up to being an “associate member” of the bloc, which includes paying a membership fee, instead of signing a free trade agreement after leaving.  And they warned both Mrs May and the leaders of other EU member states against trying to strike individual deals “behind our back”, saying such a move would be a deal breaker.

Education

Guardian
School funding cuts are threatening to undermine the quality of education in England’s classrooms, putting children’s academic progress at risk as head teachers struggle to find savings, finds a highly critical report. MPs on the Commons public accounts committee (PAC) say schools in England are facing the most significant financial pressure since the mid-1990s, with school leaders having to find £3bn in savings by 2020. Meg Hillier, the Labour chair of the PAC, accused the government of collective delusion about the scope for further efficiency savings and warned: “Pupils’ futures are at risk if the DfE fails to act on the warnings in our report.”

Morning Star
SCHOOLS in England are facing the toughest financial cuts in two decades, MPs warned yesterday, fuelling union fears about the deepening impact on teachers’ living standards. Rising class sizes and a loss of subjects will see standards fall, the Commons public accounts committee warned in its report. Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said there is a “collective delusion” within the government about the savings to be made. The committee accused ministers of failing to learn lessons from the NHS, where “unrealistic” targets and “ineffective” leadership have caused long-term damage to finances. Rising costs in teacher pay, pensions, and employers’ National Insurance contributions have led to a funding black hole of £3 billion. It will mean the biggest cut in schools spending since the 1990s. The Department for Education expects £1.7 billion of that to come out of staffing costs.

Labour Party

Morning Star
JEREMY CORBYN held PM Theresa May’s feet to the fire yesterday after she triggered Article 50. Addressing the Commons the Labour leader said that he respects the Brexit vote but warned the government against turning the nation into a “tax dodgers’ paradise” through further deregulation. Labour would support her in ensuring that Brexit would work for everyone — providing she meets Labour’s six tests on the final deal brought to 27 other EU nations, he added. The Labour leader’s warnings came as a letter signed by Ms May was delivered to the Brussels office of EU Council President Donald Tusk, notifying him of Britain’s intention to leave the EU and officially triggering the two year process.

NHS

Times
Patients must be told they cannot have routine operations quickly if they also want short waits for A&E, cancer care and other treatments, an NHS leader has said. Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, is being urged to relax targets for waiting times as he prepares to lay out his reforms to the service today. Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents all health service organisations, said that it was unrealistic to pretend that patients could have everything they had come to expect when money was so tight. “It’s not reasonable to say that all the current targets have to be met,” Mr Dickson told The Times.

Mail
Almost 150 GPs are quitting the NHS every month despite a government pledge to hire 5,000 by 2020. The health service lost 445 full-time doctors in the three months from September to December, figures revealed last night. Experts said the fall exposed the ‘deepening crisis’ in surgeries that are struggling to meet the demands of the rising, ageing population. NHS boss Simon Stevens is expected to unveil plans tomorrow to improve the health service, including proposals for surgeries to work more closely together to provide evening and weekend appointments. But MPs and medical professionals say these plans are ‘light years away’ as the health service is so short of GPs.

Child grooming

Mail
Child sex grooming cases have quadrupled in four years, but even this level represents ‘the tip of the iceberg’, a report reveals today. The number of children classed as being at risk of sexual exploitation in just one of the worst-affected regions of the UK has almost trebled to 1,732 since 2015, research found. ‘Chaos’ afflicting children’s homes, with half of youngsters in care sent away from their local area, and sexualisation through access to the internet are identified as key causes. Today’s report, by Labour MP Ann Coffey, is a follow-up to one she wrote in 2014 entitled ‘Real Voices’, commissioned to address the problem in Greater Manchester following the Rochdale grooming gang scandal.

North Korea

Star
NORTH Korea possesses the weaponry to kill 90% of Americans, according to a chilling report by two intelligence experts. The US appears to be on the verge of all-out war with the communist nation with no signs of reconciliation. More than 20 missiles have been detonated from the North in the last year, with several launched at US military bases. In response, the US has simulated attacks on North Korea with their hated neighbours, South Korea. Despite this, the US’ attitude towards North Korea does not seem to be serious, with President Trump saying a nuclear strike in the US “wouldn’t happen”, and senator John McCain dismissing Kim as a “crazy fat kid”. Former director of US Central Intelligence, James Woolsey, and former CIA official Peter Vincent Pry penned a paper urging the US to take North Korea as a serious nuclear threat.

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