European Council President, Donald Tusk has said he expects the EU to outline their negotiating stance within 48 hours of Article 50 being triggered. He told a press conference: “When the UK notifies, it is our goal to react with the draft negotiation guidelines for the 27 Member States to consider. For this I think we need more or less 48 hours”. This indicates that the EU already have all of their cards lined up and are just waiting for Theresa May to lay down the gauntlet. Remoaners crying for a second referendum and Lords trying to frustrate the process are only strengthening the EU’s hand. Thankfully, the country is behind the Prime Minister on this and expect her to deliver the Brexit we all voted for. Countries including SpainCzech Republic  and Poland have all broken ranks to say they will do everything possible to help us make a success of Brexit, protecting our, and their, interests.

THERESA May’s proposal to carry out post-Brexit trade negotiations with Commonwealth nations has been condemned as “embarrassing” by a member of the House of Lords. The PM risks “madness” by attempting to replace European Union (EU) trade partners with the likes of New Zealand, Lord O’Neil of Gatley said.  The former Treasury minister said Mrs May was ignoring reality in her attempts to reduce immigration while boosting the economy.  He said: “Greece is bigger than new Zealand. Banging on about a free trade deal with New Zealand is going to make zero difference to Britain’s future instead of trade.” He was particularly dismissive of her attempts to curb immigration. Lord O’Neill said: “If we’re cutting ourselves off from the most skilled people from around the world in key industries and most importantly in our universities, where arguably Britain does have a global edge, it’s kind of madness.”


BRUSSELS is facing a major funding crisis when its cash cow Britain leaves with Brexit set to slash the EU’s budget receipts by up to a fifth, a leading think-tank has warned. Eurocrats are staring at a colossal spending black hole caused largely by the astonishing rate at which they have milked the UK economy for cash, according to bombshell conclusions published by the European Policy Centre (EPC). Experts revealed how Britain’s budget contributions have ballooned at an unprecedented speed and are now a scarcely believable more than 50 times greater than they were when the country joined the bloc in 1973. For just one year in its five-decade EU history has the UK ever been a net beneficiary of the project, and that came in 1975 when the then Government was putting full membership to a referendum. And now Brussels has become hooked on British taxpayers’ cash, with experts warning both eurocrats and the other 27 countries face seriously painful decision about how to make up for the shortfall from 2019 onwards. 

Sky News
Theresa May will today walk into the middle of a furious row over the re-election of European Council president Donald Tusk, in what is set to be her final EU leaders’ summit before triggering Article 50. The Prime Minister will attend the first day of the Brussels summit, where leaders from the 28-country bloc will discuss migration, security and economic growth. But she will leave after dinner on Thursday night, allowing the remaining 27 leaders to discuss the next summit – in Rome on 25 March – which will celebrate the EU’s 60th anniversary. Mrs May has promised to trigger Article 50 by the end of the month and, despite defeats in the House of Lords over the plan, she expects to be able to stick to her schedule. Brexit is not formally on the agenda at the EU summit but Mrs May has used these occasions to discuss Brexit-related issues with other leaders, for example the status of EU nationals in the UK.

Eurocrats have blasted Britain’s flagship counter-extremism programmes – despite a string of deadly Islamist terror attacks on the Continent. Schemes in the UK have been credited with stopping dozens of British fundamentalists travelling abroad to join Islamic State. However a report by the Council of Europe warned the UK’s anti-radicalisation programmes were ‘fomenting resentment’ within Muslim communities. The Strasbourg-based body, which is separate from the EU, said the Prevent and Channel strategies were ‘jeopardising’ efforts to integrate Muslims, leading some communities to become extremism incubators. But experts criticised the conclusion, and said the UK’s counter-extremism strategy was ‘the best in the world’.

Theresa May was due to walk into the middle of a diplomatic showdown in Brussels later today when she attends what will almost certainly be her last European Union leader’s summit before triggering Article 50. European leaders are locked in a fierce battle with Poland over the re-election of Donald Tusk to a second term as president of the European Council. Poland has indicated it wants British support for a rival Polish candidate who in turn has almost no support from the other 26 member states. The showdown – which is expected to end with Mr Tusk’s re-election by a majority vote if necessary – leaves Mrs May facing a delicate diplomatic dilemma. Either the Prime Minister ignores Polish demands for support and risks upsetting a potentially key ally for Britain in the coming Brexit talks, or she backs the Polish candidate and isolates Britain from major powers like France and Germany who openly support Mr Tusk’s reappointment.

EUROPE is at a crossroads in its history with the bloc facing an uncertain future, but these damning charts show how member states cannot even agree on Brussels’ flagship policies. The shocking maps lay brutally bare how the continent is split down the middle on the key issues of the day, including deepening of the eurozone and the creation of an EU army. And they demonstrate the monumental headache facing eurocrats as they try to carve out a path for the euro project in the 21st Century amid a backdrop of voter apathy and growing populism. The charts, created by the independent monitoring website VoteWatch, chronicle how EU parliament representatives from the 28 member states have voted on a range of topics in recent years. They show that Jean-Claude Juncker faces a gruelling uphill task to get countries to agree on a way forward for the bloc, with the splits between different nationalities starkly exposed. 


Morning Star
JEREMY CORBYN accused the Chancellor yesterday of “utter complacency” over the state of the economy as he delivered a Budget that failed to address the NHS and social care crisis. The Labour leader launched a searing attack on Philip Hammond as he outlined plans to invest just £2 billion more in social care over the next three years — far short of the £2.6bn a year the Local Government Association (LGA) says is needed to deal with the crisis. The Chancellor plans to make £1bn of the cash available to local authorities immediately to allow them to “act now to bridge the gap” until money from the Better Care Fund becomes available. He said this would help the 24 councils he claimed were responsible for half of all delayed discharges from hospitals. Mr Hammond claimed that the government’s controversial sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) would bring short and medium-term stability to the NHS, announcing £325 million to bring forward the implementation of a group of pilot STPs over the summer.

The NHS has been left to crumble and a £100 million pledge targeting accident and emergency departments was a “sticking plaster”, unions and nurses claimed following the Budget. The cash for A&E will be available in time for the next winter crisis for new triage projects at English hospital A&Es. The government has also set aside £5.9bn across five years to secure the NHS against the government’s insurance tax rises. But public sector UNISON has slammed the NHS measures, claiming: “If it were a hospital, the government would be put into special measures for this shoddy performance.” And the Royal College of Nurses described the A&E cash as “a sticking plaster”.

The NHS will be hit harder than expected by a controversial shake-up of personal injury compensation – forcing the Chancellor to borrow an extra £1.2bn a year. And higher motor insurance premiums because of the shake-up “will be fully passed on to consumers”, the Treasury’s watchdog has acknowledged. A little-noticed decision to dramatically cut the ‘discount rate’ for compensation awards, to reflect lower yields from investment bonds, first sparked controversy last month. The lower rate – 0.75 per cent, instead of 2.5 per cent – will benefit the thousands of people who suffer from medical negligence, car accidents and other personal injury incidents. But Downing Street was forced to admit a rumoured £1bn higher bill for the Department of Health was “broadly in the right ballpark”.

Hospitals will be given up to £100million to install GPs in their struggling A&E units, the Chancellor announced. Philip Hammond unveiled plans which will see family doctors treating the less seriously ill in up to 100 casualty departments. But doctors’ leaders opposed the scheme and warned it would only attract more patients to A&E hoping to be seen quickly. They also warned it would divert GPs away from understaffed surgeries. The Government hopes the scheme will reduce pressure on A&E units which have just seen one of their busiest ever winters. Some departments were so overcrowded that elderly patients were queuing on trolleys for up to 30 hours. Hospitals will be told to apply to the Department of Health for a share of the money, setting out details of how their scheme would work. Many are expected to propose setting up a primary care centre alongside their A&E – staffed by GPs – to treat patients with minor ailments. They will operate a ‘triage’ system on the door of A&E where GPs or nurses will assess all patients upon arrival.

Foreign aid

UK taxpayers will be forced to spend an extra £300million in foreign aid by the end of the decade. Ministers are bound by law to pay 0.7 per cent of national income in aid. And because Britain’s economy is out-stripping doom-laden Brexit forecasts, the foreign aid budget will have to grow. It means Whitehall officials will have to find more projects to splurge the extra cash. The foreign aid budget was already due to reach more than £16billion a year by 2020. The hike in foreign aid spending was slipped out in yesterday’s Budget documents. The Treasury said the extra £300million reflected the better-than-expected growth forecasts. The Office for Budget Responsibility said the UK economy is set to rise 2 per cent this year – much higher than its previous forecast of 1.4 per cent.


BBC News
The Scottish government will receive a £350m funding boost as a result of measures announced in his budget, the chancellor has said. The additional Barnett formula money will come from increased UK government spending on areas such as education. Mr Hammond told the House of Commons that the additional funding demonstrated that “we are stronger together in this great United Kingdom”. He also confirmed additional help for the North Sea oil and gas industry. The Treasury said the Scottish government would see its resource budget boosted by £260m over the next three years, and its capital budget by £90m over the period to 2021.

ITV News
Nicola Sturgeon says she is “not bluffing” about holding a second Scottish independence referendum. The First Minister said she was “not ruling anything out” when asked about when the referendum might take place. Speaking on BBC Two’s Brexit: Britain’s Biggest Deal she warned politicians in Westminster that Brexit is not “some kind of game”. When asked about autumn 2018 being a likely date, she said: “Within that window. I guess when the sort of outline of a UK deal becomes clear on the UK exiting the EU, I think would be the common sense time for Scotland to have that choice, if that is the road we choose to go down. Ms Sturgeon raised the prospect of another referendum after Scotland voted to stay in the European Union but the UK as a whole voted to leave.

A SCOTTISH National Party MP has suggested that the party will not push for a second independence referendum until after Brexit. Roger Mullin, the Scottish politician, hinted that the party would wait until the fate of Britain was decided until they pushed for a second referendum on independence. The Scottish first minister has insisted that a referendum would be “highly likely” if they were forced to leave the single market. Theresa May has reiterated that Britain would be leaving the single market after Brexit but has ensured that she would push for a trade deal with the EU. Mr Mullin revealed that it makes sense for the Scottish National Party to see the final Brexit deal, before they trigger another independence referendum. 

BBC News
Scotland’s first minister has said autumn 2018 would be a “common sense” date for any second independence referendum. Nicola Sturgeon continued to insist, however, that no final decision had yet been made on holding such a vote. In a BBC interview, she said she would take things forward at “the pace that I think is right for the country”. Ms Sturgeon has previously said another referendum is “highly likely” following last year’s Brexit vote. Scotland voted by 62% to 38% to remain inside the EU, and the Scottish government argues that access to the single market after Brexit is vital to the country’s interests. Scottish ministers have put forward proposals they claim could achieve this, but have accused the UK government of “intransigence” on the issue. SNP economic spokesman Stewart Hosie told BBC Breakfast: “The key thing is will the UK government really embark on this hard Tory, cliff edge Brexit – and we fear they will.

Nicola Sturgeon has claimed autumn 2018 would be the ‘common-sense time’ to stage a second Scottish independence referendum. The First Minister yesterday refused to rule out holding another divisive vote on breaking up the Union within the next 18 months. And Miss Sturgeon insisted she is not and never has been bluffing about forcing voters to return to the polls on the issue which was ruled a ‘once in a generation’ vote in 2014. The SNP leader has continued to issue threats over a second referendum following the UK-wide decision to leave the EU last year. She has claimed a vote on separation is ‘highly likely’ and has now given her clearest hint yet that Scotland could be just 18 months away from another vote.

Social care

THE crisis in social care in England has forced Chancellor Philip Hammond to pledge an extra £2 billion over three years to help ease the pressure. The money, with £1 billion promised in 2017/18, follows intense pressure from MPs and councils, but falls short of the levels of funding demanded by some campaigners.
Mr Hammond  acknowledged the system was “clearly under pressure”, with the NHS suffering as a consequence. In his first Budget, he said that, alongside the additional funding, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid will announce measures to identify and support councils which are “struggling” and to ensure more “joined-up working” with the NHS. The Chancellor also announced a £100 million plan to ease the pressure in A&E units.

EVERY Brit faces paying into a compulsory insurance system for their care in old age. The move is part of major reforms being plotted by Philip Hammond. The Chancellor yesterday opened the door to a mandatory Japanese-style funding model for all as he pledged £2billion to save ailing services for the elderly and disabled. Councils have already been given the powers to increase council tax by up to five per cent to pay for social care in their areas. But the cash is not enough to plug a chronic lack of funding for crisis-hit services looking after a growing elderly population. Admitting that the system was “clearly under pressure” Mr Hammond yesterday announced a review of the long-term funding of the system. He also ruled out a death tax to pay for care — saying he would not be “exhuming Labour’s hated death tax”.

Philip Hammond responded to the growing crisis in social care in England by pledging to put £2bn extra into it over the next three years and also produced an unexpected £425m to help the NHS cope better with winter and transform how it works. Additional money for social care was necessary both to improve the help older people receive as the number of over-75s grows quickly in the coming years and also to ease the huge pressures the NHS is under, the chancellor said in his statement. He also promised that a green paper, due late this year, would set out options for resolving the financially and politically pressing question of how to fund social care in the long term, given the population is set to continue ageing. The cash boost, £1bn of which councils will receive to use in 2017-18, follows dramatic warnings from charities, health organisations and the care regulator that England’s social care system is reaching “a tipping point” after years of budget cuts.

Nuclear war

THE US has deployed nuclear bombers to the Korean peninsula as tensions with North Korea grow. North Korea and the US have been locked in a bitter feud which has threatened to spark World War 3. Ruthless leader Kim Jong-un fired off four ballistic missiles in a chilling warning to Donald Trump on Monday morning. But the US president is sending in B-1 and B-52 bombers – which are built to carry nuclear bombs – in a show of force against the Hermit Kingdom. F-35B stealth fighters – the most advanced aircraft in the world – will also arrive in South Korea next week. Dastardly dictator Kim oversaw the rocket launch himself and aimed the projectiles at US bases, with missiles landing in Japanese waters. 
In response, both South Korea and the US have been taking part in operation Foal Eagle, where air, naval and land units take part in military drills.

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