Ministers have conceded that future disputes over Britain’s £39 billion “divorce bill” will be ruled on by the European Court of Justice even though David Davis, the Brexit secretary, assured parliament in May that it would not be the final arbiter. The court will adjudicate on any “outstanding commitments” left over from the current round of EU spending, which covers payments until at least 2025. This means that it could make rulings well into the 2020s that the UK had failed to pay Brussels money owed. The government embedded the concession in a draft withdrawal treaty published in March. Negotiators had highlighted 75 per cent in green to indicate what had been agreed by both sides.
The EU opened fire on Theresa May‘s ‘unworkable’ Brexit backstop plans today as tensions escalated again. Brussels delivered a withering assessment of the proposals thrashed out by the Cabinet last week, warning they would mean the return of a hard Irish border. Eurocrats also complained that the ideas were ‘complex and unprecedented’ – insisting Northern Ireland should just stay within the EU’s customs and regulatory jurisdiction. The blunt dismissal comes as tensions ratchet up again ahead of a crucial summit at the end of this month.
Theresa May has been dealt a huge new headache after EU chiefs poured cold water on her latest Brexit plans. The Prime Minister finally sent off her crucial plan for a customs ‘backstop’ last Thursday after a Tory row. But in a blow to the PM, the European Commission today claimed her plan would leave a hard border in Northern Ireland – exactly what she’s trying to stop. In a 12-page presentation, Eurocrats claimed Mrs May’s version of the plan “does not cover regulatory controls, leading to a hard border”.
The UK’s backstop plan for the Irish frontier has been comprehensively rejected by the European Commission which said it would lead to a hard border. In its official retort to the plan, Brussels officials questioned how the UK could carry out EU controls without “proper EU supervision and enforcement”. As Brexit secretary David Davis met with his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, in Brussels, the Commission published its official reply to the plan. It said Westminster’s idea for a temporary customs arrangement, where the entire UK remains in a customs territory, would lead to a hard Northern Ireland border. The backstop plan relies on faith from Brussels that a later trade agreement will be signed that replaces it.
Significant gaps in Theresa May’s new Brexit customs plan for Northern Ireland would lead to the creation of a hard border with the Republic, the European Commission has said. A presentation drawn up by the EU’s negotiating team for member states said the UK’s customs paper, which was released on Thursday, “leaves key questions unanswered”. Officials are particularly worried that the UK plan would not keep Northern Ireland aligned with single market rules, meaning regulatory checks would be needed at the border for goods. They are also concerned at UK proposals to time-limit the proposal until 2021 at the latest, with the presentation asking: “Is this a backstop?”
Theresa May has headed off a Tory rebellion over a key Brexit vote by offering an olive branch to Remainers in her party over future customs arrangements with the EU. After hours of negotiations between Tory rebels and Government whips, a peace deal was brokered by Mrs May’s former Europe adviser Sir Oliver Letwin. The Government is now expected to back an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill which will be tabled by Sir Oliver and has the backing of rebels including Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, and Stephen Hammond.
Theresa May looks to have avoided a humiliating defeat on a key area of Brexit policy after reaching a compromise with Conservative backbenchers. The prime minister faced the prospect of losing a crunch vote on the customs union, but a number of potential pro-EU rebels, as well as leading Brexiteers, have now agreed to back a No 10 deal. The compromise will see the government pledge to try to agree a “customs arrangement” with the EU. That appears to have been enough to convince some MPs not to back a House of Lords amendment to the EU withdrawal bill that would keep the UK in a “customs union” with the EU.
Tory Remainer rebels have drafted a new amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill to “give the PM some breathing space”, according to one of them. It would oblige the PM to report to parliament in due course on her efforts to achieve a customs “arrangement” with the EU rather than May’s rejected “customs union”. It does not mean the rebels have surrendered in their campaign to pressurise her to negotiate membership of a Customs Union. It is simply that they feel it is too early, by a month or two, to precipitate a crisis, which is what defeating her on the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU would achieve (inter alia). So it looks as though May will scrape a narrow victory when the vote on the customs union amendment happens on Wednesday.
Labour splits deepened as more than 35 pro-Remain MPs lobbied Sir Keir Starmer to soften the party’s position on Brexit and others who backed Leave urged Jeremy Corbyn to be tough. The first group met the shadow Brexit secretary for more than an hour yesterday to discuss the party’s stance before the EU withdrawal bill returns to the Commons today. The delegation, which contained some MPs who represent Leave constituencies, raised concerns about the amendment unveiled by Labour last week. The amendment stopped short of backing membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) but called for “full access to the internal market”. Pro-EU members want the party to go further and back a Lords amendment that supports Britain being in the EEA.
Jeremy Corbyn is facing deepening divisions on his back benches after a group of MPs from Leave-supporting constituencies wrote to the Labour leader warning him not to soften his stance on Brexit. In a letter sent ahead of crunch votes on Brexit in the Commons tomorrow, the MPs told Mr Corbyn not to “ignore” public concerns about immigration and claimed that continued continued close alignment with the EU, as championed by others in the party, would result in a “huge democratic deficit”.
LABOUR will be plunged into a bitter Brexit split tomorrow as over 70 MPs defy the leader and vote in favour of Britain taking a Norway-style EU membership. Despite a last-minute plea from Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, Europhile Labour MPs vowed to support a Lords amendment calling for membership of the European Economic Area. At the same time as many as 10 Labour MPs could side WITH the Government to back Theresa May’s Brexit plans and ensure they pass. Led by Caroline Flint, the Brexit-backing MPs have sent a stinging letter to Jeremy Corbyn urging him not to bow to pressure from pro-EU colleagues. EEA membership gives countries such as Norway and Liechtenstein access to the single market, but they have to accept unlimited EU immigration and EU rules and regulations.
THERESA May was in last-ditch talks with Tory rebels last night in an attempt to quell a bruising revolt over her Brexit plans. Ahead of a series of crunch votes on her flagship withdrawal legislation starting tomorrow in the Commons, the Prime Minister was thrashing out a compromise to try to stop pro-Brussels Tory MPs voting against the Government. She also pleaded with them to stay loyal to strengthen her negotiating hand as the talks on a future trade deal with Brussels intensify.
Theresa May has issued a final plea to Conservative Brexit rebels not to undermine her negotiating clout with Brussels by voting against the government on the EU withdrawal bill as it returns to the House of Commons on Tuesday. The prime minister faces a knife-edge result on an amendment to give parliament a meaningful vote on the final deal as Tory remainers threatened to support the change, brought in by peers, and Labour rallied all but its most pro-Brexit MPs behind it. Several leading Tory rebels told the Guardian they were not yet satisfied with the changes proposed by ministers on the meaningful vote, despite senior government figures saying they were confident of getting them through.
The prime minister has warned Tory MPs they will undermine her negotiating position with the EU if they rebel on key Brexit legislation. Ahead of the EU Withdrawal Bill’s return to the House of Commons on Tuesday, Theresa May warned Conservative backbenchers against allowing House of Lords amendments to the legislation to stand. Pro-Remain Tories are considering whether to vote in favour of peers’ changes to the bill, in order to force the changes on the government. They are most likely to back the House of Lords’ demand for ministers to stay open to negotiating a customs union with the EU, and on a call for a beefed-up “meaningful vote” for parliament on the final Brexit deal.
Desperate Theresa May has begged rebel Tory MPs not to derail her key Brexit Bill and humiliate before she goes to Brussels this month. The Prime Minister faces two knife-edge votes over her flagship EU (Withdrawal) Bill tomorrow and Wednesday. One is bidding to force her to give the Commons a “meaningful vote” over the final deal she hopes to strike with the EU. Another would require ministers to take steps towards staying in an EU Customs Union, which she wants to avoid. Signs of a compromise thrashed out by backbench MP Oliver Letwin have emerged as PM loyalists tried to stave off a defeat.
THERESA May last night told rebellious Tory MPs to think of the nation ahead of a knife-edge Brexit showdown today. The PM made the desperate appeal for unity among her feuding party as two days of votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill begin. She brokered an 11th-hour truce between warring factions to derail 14 Lords amendments which had threatened to scupper her Brexit strategy. Addressing a special meeting of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, she said: “This is not just about party unity, this is about the national interest. “We must think about the message Parliament will send to the European Union this week.
David Davis has told Conservative MPs the UK’s whole approach to negotiations with the EU risks being undermined by amendments to its flagship Brexit bill. The Commons will vote later on whether to give MPs a decisive say on any final deal struck with the EU in the autumn. In a letter to Tory MPs, the Brexit secretary said it was “simply not right” that Parliament could overturn the referendum result with such a vote. Theresa May has also appealed to her MPs not to undermine her position. MPs will be asked to approve or reject a series of amendments made to the EU withdrawal bill by the House of Lords.
The “poison” of Islamophobia is “very widespread” in the Conservative Party but is being “ignored” by Tory leaders, a former co-chair of the party has said. Baroness Warsi said the problem was present at all levels of her party and claimed some of the Tories’ own campaigns had included anti-Muslim messages. It follows calls for an investigation into Islamophobia in the party after a series of Conservative politicians were found to have made or shared offensive comments about Muslims. The Independent has previously revealed that the Muslim Council of Britain has demanded an inquiry into the incidents – a call that was backed by groups representing 350 mosques and Muslim organisations.
The fate of 629 migrants on a rescue ship in the Mediterranean was in the balance last night amid fears of mutiny. Italy and Malta have both refused to let the vessel dock and charity workers said the passengers were becoming ‘increasingly anxious and desperate’. The rescuers had initially shielded the migrants from the knowledge that they were stranded in international waters. But, faced with a barrage of questions, they last night told them why they had been stuck at sea since Saturday night. Pictures showed humanitarian workers desperately trying to calm tensions on board the Aquarius as food supplies dwindled.
ITALY’S far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is refusing to let a ship with more than 600 rescued migrants to dock after pledging to “stop the filthy business of illegal immigration.” The boat, which contains at least seven pregnant women and 123 unaccompanied children among its 629 passengers, remained stranded in the Mediterranean today after the government turned it away yesterday. But mayors across southern Italy said they would defy the government and open their ports to the Aquarius — a rescue ship operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee. SOS Mediterrannee spokeswoman Sophie Beau warned that the vessel is dangerously over capacity.
Left-wing mayors in Italian coastal cities courted outrage Sunday as they defied the democratic will of the Italian people to throw open their ports to a migrant delivery ship carrying 629 illegals, despite the newly elected national government having ordered it be turned away. Mayors in Naples, Messina, Reggio Calabria, and Palermo stood against the poll-topping, recently installed Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini Sunday after he said the migrant ship Aquarius would be turned away from Italy, reports Italy’s Il Giornale. Tweeting on Sunday, Salvini said: “Starting today, Italy, too, begins to say NO to the trafficking of human beings, NO to the business of clandestine immigration. My goal is to guarantee a peaceful life for these children in Africa and for our children in Italy.”
SPAIN and Malta have opened their doors to offer a safe port for a rescue ship currently stranded in the Mediterranean with 629 migrants on board. The vessel, which has 120 children and seven pregnant women on board, was left sitting in the sea for two days after Italy refused permission for it to dock at its ports. The refusal from Italy’s new interior minister came as part of tough anti-immigration promises made by the country’s new government. Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has now given instructions for the boat to dock in Valencia, but Sky News sources say it is likely the boat will first dock in Malta within hours.
Taxpayers’ money is being used to help foreign nurses pass English language tests in order to land jobs with the NHS. Recruits are being given up to £400 towards the cost of being trained to sit crucial exams which test their English skills. It is just one incentive being given to foreign nurses by hospitals desperate to overcome a staffing crisis in the NHS. Also on offer are free return flights from their home country, £293 to cover the cost of registering with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and a further £428 for a recruit’s ‘initial’ UK visa, as well as subsidised accommodation for a specified period. NHS trusts are also picking up the £992 bill for sitting a key exam which is part of the process of registering with the NMC.
Philip Hammond is preparing to raise up to £10 billion in extra tax to help to boost the NHS on its 70th birthday. Theresa May is also to lift a cap on skilled workers from outside the EU that blocks foreign doctors from coming to Britain. The move will precede the expected announcement next week of a package of measures to improve the health service. The prime minister has promised a “multiyear” funding settlement for the NHS to address long-term financial needs, which were highlighted this winter when thousands of nonemergency operations were postponed. Precise figures are being negotiated, but health experts calculate that the NHS faces an annual £20 billion funding gap by 2022 because the ageing population is placing greater demands on services.
Plans for a £15billion bridge between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland are being backed by Boris Johnson, The Telegraph can disclose. The Foreign Secretary said that a mooted 14-mile link across the Irish Sea which has already been backed by the Democratic Unionist Party should be looked at “seriously” by the Government. It comes after Mr Johnson said he wanted to see a bridge across the English Channel in February to unite France and England.
Boris Johnson has given his backing to plans for a £15 billion bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Foreign Secretary said the idea should be “seriously considered” by the government after retweeting a proposal for the ambitious project. The DUP, whose 10 MPs prop up Theresa May’s government, have previously backed the plan. The Northern Ireland party demanded a feasibility study into building a bridge or tunnel in its manifesto for the 2015 general election but it did not feature in its manifesto last year.
President Trump has thrown next month’s Nato summit into turmoil by questioning the future of the alliance, even as his trade war with the European Union deepens. He has alarmed officials in both organisations by linking his anger at the $151 billion (£112 billion) European trade surplus to longstanding frustration in Washington that many European countries, Germany in particular, do not meet Nato’s targets on defence spending. Mr Trump tweeted on Sunday night, after the breakdown of the G7 summit in Canada: “The US pays close to the entire cost of Nato — protecting many of these same countries that rip us off on trade (they pay only a fraction of the cost — and laugh).
A rising number of motorists are being ripped off after being hit by private parking penalties that should never have been issued, The Times has learnt. Parking companies are issuing tens of thousands of tickets on seemingly spurious grounds only to cancel them when drivers appeal. Figures show that more than a third of penalties referred to an appeals body last year were withdrawn by operators that did not contest them. One company failed to contest three quarters of its parking ticket appeals. The statistics led to claims that some companies were “trying it on” by issuing tickets they knew were wrong in the hope that motorists would pay up without querying them.