‘Divorce bill’

Telegraph
Britain must pay the £39 billion Brexit bill even if it leaves the EU without a deal, the European Commission has warned. Britain agreed to pay the financial settlement to the EU, which include EU Budget payments up to 2020, to cover its liabilities to the bloc and unlock talks over the future relationship. As it released a new set of no deal Brexit plans in Brussels on Wednesday, the commission said, “all commitments taken by the 28 Member States should be honoured by the 28 Member States.” “This is also true in a “no-deal” scenario, where the UK would be expected to continue to honour all commitments made during EU membership.”

Mirror
The EU has demanded the UK fork out for the £39bn divorce bill in the event of a no-deal Brexit . Theresa May had previously agreed to cover costs associated with membership of the European Union up until 2020. Now politicians in Brussels are reportedly demanding the money be paid in full – even if then UK crashes out without an agreement. The proposals have been revealed in contingency plans drawn up by the EU as the possibility of no-deal Brexit draws nearer. A statement from the European Commission said: “All commitments taken by the 28 Member States should be honoured by the 28 Member States.”

Independent
Britain would keep paying into the EU budget for years after a no-deal Brexit under contingency plans drawn up by the European Commission. In a move likely to enrage Brexiteers and cause yet another political row in Westminster, on Wednesday Brussels unveiled proposals for the UK to keep up its payments for the 2019 EU budget and beyond. The UK would have to consent to the plan, with a deadline to agree set for 18 April – deliberately placed after the effects of a no-deal would have become apparent.

Conservative Party

Times
Theresa May is preparing to entice Labour MPs to support her Brexit deal with a cash injection into deprived areas that supported Leave, including former mining communities. The prime minister’s allies believe that she needs the backing of about 20 Labour MPs for a modified agreement to offset the number of Tory rebels, even if she wins the support of the DUP. Potential Labour backers are now being wooed with the promise of local investment as Downing Street increases efforts to build a parliamentary majority before a second vote.

Express
EUROPEAN RESEARCH GROUP (ERG) deputy Steve Baker believes “fearful” Downing Street officials “do not believe” in delivering Brexit. Jacob Rees-Mogg’s number two told parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee it was “hard to be too damning” about the government’s Brexit negotiations. Mr Baker, the MP for Wycombe, served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) from June 2017 to July 2018. During his time in the department, No 10 staff and DExEU ministers were regularly at loggerheads over Brexit policy, he claimed.

Telegraph
The Prime Minister’s chief Brexit negotiator warned against backing a Tory plan to go back to Brussels and reopen negotiations in a series of emails to senior officials, The Telegraph has been told. Oliver Robbins raised concerns about an amendment tabled by a senior Tory MP requiring the Prime Minister to secure changes to the Northern Ireland backstop, sources said. He allegedly questioned whether the EU will be willing to make significant legal changes to the backstop. Mrs May, however, ultimately chose to back the amendment, which Parliament supported on Tuesday night by 317 votes to 301.

Times
Theresa May has appointed three senior cabinet ministers to take charge of the new Brexit negotiations to try to broker an agreement between Brussels and her warring party. David Lidington, the prime minister’s de facto deputy, is expected to lead the talks on her behalf. A former Europe minister who is widely respected in Brussels, he will be supported by Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, and Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general. Government sources said that Oliver Robbins, Mrs May’s chief Europe adviser who led the detailed negotiations on the withdrawal agreement, would have a less prominent role.

Labour Party

Times
Jeremy Corbyn’s meeting with Theresa May yesterday marked the end of his long effort to stay out of the Brexit fray. That lack of engagement might be seen as puzzling, since it represents both an existential threat and a huge electoral opportunity for Labour, but it makes strategic sense. Mr Corbyn’s close ally Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, summed up Labour’s dilemma last month. “There is no route to a parliamentary majority without London, nor without the Midlands and the North and of course Scotland,” he wrote in the New Statesman, referring to the party’s crucial alliance of Remain and Leave voters.

Mail
Jeremy Corbyn today denied giving MPs from Leave seats a free pass to rebel in key Brexit votes – as he made clear he will not sack shadow ministers who helped save Theresa May’s plan. More than a dozen Labour MPs defied orders to vote with the Tories, cancelling out a rebellion in Mrs May’s own ranks on votes to frustrate a no deal Brexit. And a series of shadow ministers went missing in the crucial vote despite being ordered to vote Aye to the plan tabled by Labour MP Yvette Cooper.

Ireland

Times
Dominic Raab yesterday provoked a row with Dublin by claiming that the Irish prime minister had briefed “falsehoods” from a confidential meeting. Mr Raab, the former Brexit secretary, told MPs that Leo Varadkar was the source for newspaper articles last October that claimed he had proposed a three-month time-limited backstop. It was claimed that Mr Raab made the proposal during a private meeting with Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister.

Reuters
Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told British Prime Minister Theresa May he would not accept her plans to renegotiate a post-Brexit arrangement for the Irish border and said the so-called Irish “backstop” needed to be legally robust. Parliament voted late on Tuesday to order May to return to Brussels to replace the so-called Irish backstop, an insurance policy that aims to prevent the reintroduction of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Guardian
Ireland’s deputy prime minister has warned it will not be threatened into abandoning the backstop arrangement for the Irish border, comparing Britain’s latest Brexit moves to an ultimatum from someone threatening to jump out the window. Simon Coveney said it was an “extraordinary situation” to see Theresa May negotiate a deal in good faith and then try to renege on it. He said Ireland would not be beaten into accepting wishful thinking as a replacement to the Irish border backstop.

Westmonster
IREXIT Freedom to Prosper is a patriotic party that believes in our national democracy. We assert that the best people to look after Irish affairs are the Irish people themselves. Irish people spent centuries fighting to be an independent and self-governing nation. IREXIT Freedom to Prosper cherish these ideals and will put Irish people in control of their own destiny by restoring our national democracy and leaving the EU. As it stands Ireland is subject to laws initiated by an unelected and unaccountable European Commission.

EU

Reuters
Time is too short to find an alternative arrangement to the Irish backstop and Britain’s divorce deal with the European Union will not be re-opened for negotiation, the EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Wednesday. “We ourselves talked of so-called alternative arrangements which could prevent the return of a hard border. Only, no one, on either side, was able to say what arrangement would be needed to ensure controls on goods, animals and merchandise, without having a border,” Barnier told France’s RTL radio. “We have neither the time, nor the technologies.”

Independent
Theresa May has been warned the EU will settle for a no-deal Brexit rather than abandon the Irish backstop, as Brussels ramped up its refusal to reopen talks. A senior MEP, serving on the European Parliament‘s Brexit Steering Group, said the prime minister’s plea to rip up the existing agreement would be rejected – because a no-deal outcome was “the lesser evil”. “There will be a price to pay, but the calculus that is being made on this side of the Channel is that the cost of hurting the integrity of the single market will be significantly bigger,” said Philippe Lamberts.

Sun
THERESA May is digging in for a long-haul fight with the EU over her new demands for a Brexit deal, sparking a fresh Mexican stand-off. The PM’s allies revealed she won’t even present details of how she wants the unpopular Irish backstop changed until next week. Mrs May wants Brussels’ rage with her to subside first, and won’t ask to meet EU chiefs until she thinks they will listen to her. But tonight the EU also declared it was ready to play hardball with Mrs May and not blink first. A succession of European leaders blasted the PM for ripping up her own divorce agreement with them to win a narrow Commons majority and keep her deal alive on Tuesday night. And they also vowed the Withdrawal Agreement would never be reopened.

Westmonster
The European Union so far are refusing to publicly consider a renegotiation of a UK deal and hated backstop specifically, increasing the chances of a WTO Brexit. Both Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier pushed against any changes in the European Parliament today, with Barnier describing the backstop as “part and parcel” of the EU Withdrawal Agreement and insisted “this will not be renegotiated”. With No Deal fast approaching, let’s see how long it takes for European governments to change their tune on this.

Guardian
Theresa May has been told by Donald Tusk that it is her job to find a solution to the Brexit impasse during what sources have described as an “open and frank” 45-minute phone call in the wake of her demands for a renegotiation. The European council president warned the prime minister that a precondition for any further talks was a concrete plan from Downing Street that could clearly command the support of parliament. She in turn insisted to the EU’s most senior official that parliament had highlighted the issue that needed to be addressed in its vote on the so-called Brady amendment on Tuesday evening.

Sky News
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier says the Irish backstop is “part and parcel” of the UK’s Brexit deal and will not be renegotiated. Speaking at the European Parliament, Mr Barnier said it was a “realistic solution” to preventing a hard border. British MPs voted earlier this month against the deal agreed by the UK and EU during 18 months of negotiations. Instead, on Tuesday, they voted for PM Theresa May to seek “alternative arrangements” to the backstop.

Breitbart
The European Union’s Brexit negotiators flatly refused to accommodate any sort of renegotiation of the bloc’s ‘deal’ with the United Kingdom over Brexit, just hours after the nation’s Members of Parliament (MPs) voted to give the Prime Minister a mandate for change. EU leaders told Theresa May Wednesday morning their way was the only way — their hardline stance perhaps inadvertently drawing the United Kingdom further towards a full, no-deal freedom Brexit in March.

Times
Angela Merkel will “go to the edge of the precipice” with Theresa May as the European Union prepares to reject any change to the withdrawal agreement in time for a crucial vote in two weeks. Diplomatic sources said the German chancellor believed that people needed “to look into the abyss before a deal is done at five to midnight — that is how she works”. The next summit at which European leaders could agree any changes to the agreement or an extension to the negotiating period to avoid no deal is on March 21, only eight days before Britain is due to leave the EU.

Mail
Jean-Claude Juncker made clear the EU is playing hardball on Brexit today – flatly dismissing Theresa May’s plan to overhaul the Irish border backstop. As the wrangling intensified, the EU commission president delivered a stinging rebuke to calls from the PM to rework the insurance policy – saying it ‘cannot be removed’ from the divorce package. He also dismissed the idea that the other states will abandon Ireland for fear of damaging their own economies, saying solidarity ‘goes to the heart of what being a member of the EU means’. ‘Ireland’s border is our border,’ he said. But speaking in the European Parliament, Mr Juncker also admitted the threat of no deal Brexit is rising.

Independent
Europe’s top politicians set the scene for a major clash with the UK as Theresa May prepared to head back to Brussels in what was branded a “crazy” bid to reopen Brexit talks. They accused British Eurosceptics of playing a “blame game”, attacked the prime minister for wanting to unpick the deal she agreed to herself, and again reiterated that the backstop Ms May wants to change will not be rewritten. Among politicians who lined up against Ms May were Jean-Claude JunckerMichel BarnierGuy Verhofstadt, a key ally of Angela Merkel, Elmar Brok, and a string of European foreign ministers.

Immigration

Mail
Human traffickers used an inflatable speedboat to smuggle illegal immigrants across the English Channel but were being secretly watched by police, a court has heard. The alleged criminal gang are accused of taking four Vietnamese men to the Kent coast in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) in August last year. Prosecutors said the three alleged smugglers – Thomas Mason, 36, Hoa Thi Nguyen, 49, Chi Tan Huynh, 41 – made trial runs in the £2,100 speedboat as they conspired to bring the migrants to Britain illegally.

Social media

Telegraph
Tech giants should face a new statutory duty of care to protect children from online harms in the “lawless Wild West” of the web, say MPs in a major endorsement of The Daily Telegraph’s campaign. The Commons science and technology committee said social media “amplified” and “helped to facilitate” online sexual abuse, bullying, children’s worries about their body image, lost sleep, self-harm and sexting. Yet, the lack of regulation of social media meant children faced a “standards lottery that does little to ensure they are as safe as possible when they go online, as they are offline.”

Times
Social media companies must be regulated and subject to a legal duty of care to protect young people’s health, MPs have said. The Commons science and technology committee called for “comprehensive” regulation of the sector by Ofcom and a strong sanctions regime. The MPs also urged the government to set a target to “all but eliminate” child sexual exploitation online within four years. The committee’s report follows its inquiry into the impact of social media on young people’s health and highlights multiple negative consequences. These include damage to sleep patterns and body image, bullying, grooming and “sexting”.

Mail
Web giants should have a legal duty of care toward children, MPs say today. In a damning report they call for FacebookGoogle and Twitter to be barred from making their social media platforms deliberately addictive to youngsters. The firms should also be forced to remove illegal material within 24 hours of a complaint and take more steps to stop it being posted. The proposals – published today by the Commons science and technology committee – come amid growing concern about the impact of social media on children.

ITV News
Social media companies must be subject to a “legal duty of care” to protect the health and well-being of younger users of their sites, a report by MPs has concluded. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said the Government must consider legislation to ensure social media firms share data which can help identify and protect those at risk from the negative impact of such sites. The report, entitled Impact Of Social Media And Screen-Use On Young People’s Health, said the current loose patchwork of regulation has resulted in a “standards lottery” that could not ensure the safety of young internet users.

Education

Times
Some universities are making up to 84 per cent of their offers unconditional despite warnings that they damage students’ education, new figures from the admissions service show. Ten universities are making more than half of offers unconditional, according to data that shows the scale of the problem for the first time. The figures come from Ucas, which responded to calls from The Times for greater transparency on which universities were driving the sharp rise in unconditional offers since 2013. There were 117,000 such offers made last year compared with 3,000 in 2013.

Times
Pupils in hundreds of schools are being told that abortions are like the crimes of the Nazis by speakers said to be “peddling junk science”, The Times can reveal. Schoolgirls are taught by campaigners from anti-abortion groups that the procedure will render them infertile, depressed and suicidal. Experts have launched a “fact-based” guide to abortion, backed by public health chiefs, which they have called on schools to adopt. The guide, by the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and education groups, was created in response to concerns about children being exposed to speakers who push anti-choice rhetoric and spread incorrect information about the risks.

Health

Times
Millions of patients will be seen by an “army” of pharmacists, physios and paramedics instead of GPs in the biggest shake-up of surgeries for 15 years. Within two years all patients have been promised the right to Skype consultations, and 20,000 support workers will be drafted in to offer more appointments. Surgeries will be expected to join up with others in their area to offer a wider range of services in return for a £1.8 billion funding boost that underpins the ten-year plan for the NHS.

Mail
Pharmacists, physios and paramedics will treat patients under a revolutionary shake-up to cut GP waiting times. The NHS is recruiting 22,000 health staff to carry out consultations at family surgeries in place of doctors. They will attend to patients with minor conditions to free up GPs to treat more serious illnesses. Part of a new, five-year contract for family doctors, the reforms are seen as the biggest shake-up for the profession since 2004. Other key points of the plan to be announced today include Surgeries to band together in networks seven or eight strong to swap staff and offer more evening appointments; All patients offered Skype or videolink appointments by 2021; An extra £4.5billion invested in family medicine over five years.

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