European Union leaders will set out plans this week for negotiating Britain’s exit, diplomats said, after national officials met late on Monday to prepare an EU summit statement. After the 28 national leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday, Prime Minister Theresa May will leave and the other 27 will dine without her and agree principles on how negotiations with London will be run once May formally launches the process. Building on a first statement made by the 27 in the week after Britain’s June 23 Brexit referendum, they will clarify that Britain remains a full member until it leaves the EU but will also note that it will be excluded from various forums of the Union which will be involved in negotiating divorce terms.
THE EU was last night savaged for adding £500 to household food and clothing bills as over 60 Tory MPs stepped up demands for a ‘Hard Brexit’. In a scathing letter to European Parliament chiefs, the hard-line Tories claim the EU’s protectionist policies and tariffs on imports are “denying” cheaper products to customers. The extraordinary blast came as Tories laid into EU leaders for banning Theresa May from an end-of-year dinner at this Thursday’s EU Council meeting in Brussels. And No.10 accepted the snub despite a plea just two months ago for the UK to remain at the top table at all times. In the letter signed by the 60 MPs, Tory backbencher Suella Fernandes tells European Parliament chief Martin Schulz that Brexit Britain has to leave the single market and customs union as the EU “has not served the best interests of the UK”.
Brexit Britain’s drive for a new World Trade Organisation settlement could be blocked by countries with which the UK has territorial disputes such as Argentina or Spain, experts warned today. The UK will need unanimous agreement from all the WTO’s 160-odd members for its new “schedule” to set baselines for future trade deals. But specialists at the Institute of Export told The Independent some countries may use the opportunity to force the UK to compromise on other issues. It came as Labour called for a “transition phase” for Britain at the WTO to give time for the UK to lock in a new settlement after Brexit. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox announced earlier this month that he had now started the process of negotiating the UK’s new WTO schedule.
Britain will need a transitional trade agreement with the European Union, and the government should set out plans for it before beginning formal divorce talks with the bloc, members of parliament’s upper house said on Tuesday. Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, beginning the two-year withdrawal period, by the end of March and wants to seek a unique deal with the EU rather replicate any existing third-country agreements. Banks and businesses have repeatedly argued the government should agree a transition period to avoid a damaging “cliff edge” or abrupt exit from the bloc before Britain has finalised its future trading terms.
THE European Union’s political and financial arms could be on the brink of collapse and the world should prepare for its implosion in order to avoid disaster, a top economic expert has claimed. Roger Bootle believes Italy is edging closer to the EU exit door and France’s impending election could see Marine Le Pen surging to power, raising serious questions about how the Brussels bloc could continue to exist. The “existential threats” Italy and France pose to the Eurozone mean Britain should be preparing for the end of the European Union early to ensure as little turmoil as possible, warns the managing director of Capital Economics. Mr Bootle poured scorn on the continental club, pointing out that for all the talk of hard and soft Brexit, the European Union may well not exist within a few years anyway.
THE EU is determined to keep European nationals living in Britain firmly under the iron fist of the European Court of Justice even after Brexit is completed, it has been revealed. Senior European Commission negotiators floated the preposterous idea at a meeting between Michel Barnier, the chief European Commission negotiator and officials from the 27 other EU member states, according to an EU diplomatic source. Britain will definitely reject the plans, which have come about amid concerns in Brussels over the preservation of rights for the three million EU citizens currently living in Britain. But Theresa May has already said she will not safeguard the rights of EU nationals residing in Britain until the same is done for British citizens living in the Eurozone. Despite the Commission’s desperate bid to keep Britain locked into its legal framework, Europe has refused to enter into any negotiations with Mrs May’s Government over the status of EU expats before Article 50 is invoked.
Passengers are facing days of commuting misery as drivers on Southern Railway take industrial action. Members of the drivers’ union will strike on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday in a dispute over driver-only trains. The operator’s owners lost a legal bid to halt the walkout, which will mean many commuters will have to work from home, take time off, or attempt to drive because of the huge disruption. Charles Horton, chief executive of Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), confirmed there will be no services on strike days and “severe disruption” during an ongoing overtime ban. The shutdown of Southern’s services will be the worst disruption since the railways were hit by a lengthy strike by signal workers in the mid 1990s.
Hundreds of thousands of commuters face the worst rail disruption in decades this morning as three days of strikes begin on Southern Rail. All of Southern’s services will be halted due to the action by members of the Aslef and RMT unions over a long-running dispute about driver-only trains. Southern has “strongly advised” passengers not to travel for the rest of the week after losing its appeal against a judge’s refusal to grant an injunction blocking the strike. Commuters have already faced months of disruption because of industrial action, staff shortages and last-minute alterations – and many have said their bosses are getting fed up of staff struggling to get to work.
Southern Railway was accused of “deliberate sabotage” by cancelling trains and then blaming staff shortages when drivers and guards were ready to work. The new twist in the increasingly bitter dispute on some of Britain’s busiest commuter lines came as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling launched a blistering attack on the rail unions. As 500,000 passengers faced strike chaos – Southern Railway advised passengers not to travel tomorrow – as drivers walkout and again on Wednesday and Friday in a dispute over driver-only trains. And in a new blow, Govia Thameslink Railway, owner of Southern Railway, lost its appeal against a judge’s refusal to grant an injunction blocking a series of crippling strikes by train drivers. The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has sent internal memos – seen by the Mirror – to the rail watchdog, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), which are said to show that train crews were left sitting in mess-rooms when they could have been running a service for the public.
COMMUTERS face travel chaos this morning as two major train lines cancelled services in to London. Greater Anglia services into the capital have been hit with major delays and cancellations – on the same day as the Southern Strike. Greater Anglia tweeted: “Due to a fault with the signalling system between Audley End and Newport, all lines are disrupted. “Train services running through these stations may be cancelled, delayed up to 60 minutes or revised.” All Southern Rail services have been cancelled due to long-running industrial action by their drivers. Commuters reacted with fury to thw news that more trains would be cancelled. David Bedwell twetted: “It’s like Greater Anglia saw what Southern Rail were up to and thought hey we can be s*** too.” Matt Higgins added: “Greater Anglia, thanks for ruining my morning.”
BRITAIN’S worst-performing railway is being reported to the official regulator today for “deliberate sabotage.” Transport union RMT accused Govia Thameslink Railway’s Southern division of cancelling a number of services from Eastbourne in Sussex on Saturday — despite drivers being available for work. The company, which has spent the past year in a bitter dispute with staff over its expansion of unsafe driver-only trains, will lodge a Court of Appeal challenge today attempting to overturn last week’s High Court decision that the strike wouldn’t breach EU free movement rights. Drivers’ union Aslef district organiser Graham Morris said: “Southern is deliberately sabotaging the service to strengthen its argument in court by suggesting that Aslef is responsible for the cancellations.
Britain’s railways could be hit by a decade of industrial action, unions have warned, as one of the country’s biggest networks was shut down by the worst train strike in a generation. Aslef, the train drivers’ union, told the government that the railway faced at least ten years of disputes as part of an increasingly hostile battle over modernisation of the privatised system. The comments — in a conversation with Chris Grayling, the transport secretary — emerged as up to half a million commuters faced travel chaos today after the closure of the Southern Rail network.
Post Office workers are to stage five days of strikes next week. The Communication Workers Union said the action will include Christmas Eve. The union is embroiled in a long-running dispute over job losses, the closure of a final salary pension scheme and the franchising of Crown Post Offices – the larger branches usually sited on high streets. Kevin Gilliland, the Post Office’s network and sales director said: “We want to reassure customers that if further strike action takes place next week at least 97% of our 11,600 branches will not be involved. “It will be business as usual in almost all of our network, with over 50,000 Post Office people on hand to support customers as they make their preparations for Christmas.”
POST Office workers are to stage five days of strikes next week in a move that could derail Christmas plans for thousands of Brits. The strike comes amid a dispute over jobs, pensions and branch closures, the Communication Workers Union said. The action will include Christmas Eve. The union is embroiled in a long-running dispute over job losses, the closure of a final salary pension scheme and the franchising of high street branches. Ninety-seven per cent of branches will remain open, though.
Christmas mail services face serious disruption after Post Office workers voted to stage five days of strikes before the festive period. Hundreds of larger branches will close or operate reduced services on December 19, 20 and 24 as counter staff walk out in a dispute over closures, job cuts and the ending of a final salary pension scheme. Rural and smaller post offices also face disruption when cash handlers strike on December 22 and 23. The protests will seriously affect people sending gifts to family and friends. Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, said members were “fighting to save their jobs and this great institution from terminal decline”.
Thousands of postal workers are set to stage five days of strikes next week in a dispute over jobs, pensions and branch closures. Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) who work as counter staff plan to walk out for three days on December 19, 20 and 24. Their fellow members who are cash-handlers and deliver money to post office branches will call a 48-hour strike for December 22 and 23, according to the CWU. Hundreds more smaller branches, many in rural areas, will struggle to operate because they will not receive their usual cash delivery. The combined industrial action across the country will involve more than 4,000 workers and will result in 300 larger post offices closing entirely or operating a skeleton service during Christmas week. The union is embroiled in a long-running dispute over job losses, the closure of a final salary pension scheme and the franchising of Crown Post Offices, the larger branches usually sited on high streets.
Britain is facing Christmas strike chaos as militant unions have announced walk-outs at the Post Office and on one of the country’s busiest railway lines. Cards and parcels could be delayed after staff at the UK’s 300 largest Post Offices –which handle 20 per cent of all post – announced a five-day strike which will last until Christmas Eve. It is the longest continuous strike in the 300 year history of the Post Office and comes as rail workers on one of the country’s busiest commuter lines begin a series of crippling strikes.
Police said they had arrested six people in anti-terrorism raids across central England and London on Monday, with bomb disposal officers later dispatched as officers carried out searches. Detectives detained four men from Derby and another in Burton upon Trent in central England while a woman was also arrested in London on suspicion of preparing an act of terrorism. Police said the arrests were linked to “international related terrorism”. Police said they had arrested six people in anti-terrorism raids across central England and London on Monday, with bomb disposal officers later dispatched as officers carried out searches. Detectives detained four men from Derby and another in Burton upon Trent in central England while a woman was also arrested in London on suspicion of preparing an act of terrorism. Police said the arrests were linked to “international related terrorism”. “We would ask people to remain alert and vigilant but not to be alarmed ..,” a statement from the North East Counter Terrorism Unit said.
Bereaved families are being left in the dark and left to suffer when the NHS investigates patient deaths, according to a damning new review by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The health watchdog identified a string of problems with the investigation process and found NHS Trusts in England are “immediately on the defensive” about failures in care. It said there are “system-wide” problems in the approach to loved ones including a level of “acceptance and sense of inevitability” when people with a learning disability or mental illness died early. Families described a poor experience of investigations and told the CQC they were not consistently treated with respect, sensitivity and honesty. One parent said: “I was put in a room. I shall never forget what the nurse in the room told me. She said, ‘You have got to accept that his time has come.’ Bearing in mind my son was just 34 years old.”
Patients are dying because of a “defensive wall” over fatal errors in the NHS, a watchdog has said. Deadly mistakes are repeated because hospitals lack guidance on reviewing deaths and fail to follow the rules, according to “absolutely shocking” findings by the Care Quality Commission. It found that families were being shut out of investigations that were too often poor quality and failed to uncover the truth. Six in ten of the investigations analysed left important questions unanswered and only one in 14 gave a proper answer to the bereaved families.
Local authorities could be allowed to make a further increase in council tax to pay for social care. Ministers in England are discussing ways to invest more money into care services for the elderly and disabled. Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb called for a cross-party commission on social care to ask the public how much they are prepared to fund the service. “If you keep sleepwalking towards the edge of the precipice, real people will suffer,” Mr Lamb said. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid will unveil spending plans on Thursday.
Raising council tax bills to plug the social care funding gap will increase the postcode lottery in provision, Theresa May has been warned. The Prime Minister is reported to be preparing to allow tax precepts to be increased as experts warn the social care system could “topple over at any moment”, leaving the poorest “living a squalid life”. An increase would allow councils, which have seen reductions in grants of more than 40% since 2010, to claw in extra cash to cover the soaring cost of social care. Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, which represents care home providers, told The Times: “The whole thing could topple over at any moment and those who are poor and vulnerable will suffer most.”
Ministers are looking at increasing council tax to pay for social care but have been warned that it will not tackle funding problems which are “out of control”. Experts, including the former Tory health secretary Stephen Dorrell, have warned of a growing cash crisis hitting local government and the NHS. The government is preparing to allow tax precepts to be increased so local councils, which have suffered reductions in government grants totalling more than 40% since 2010, can claw in extra cash to cover the spiralling social care costs. Izzi Seccombe, the Conservative chair of the Local Goverment Association’s community wellbeing board, confirmed that the idea of an increase in the precept was being considered. “We have had some dialogue with ministers about this,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday.
Britain is facing an unprecedented energy supply crisis thanks to its growing dependency on “intermittent” renewable energy, a top official at the country’s electricity and gas regulator has warned. Andrew Wright, a senior partner at Ofgem, told a recent conference that some households would have to pay more just to keep the lights on while others “sit in the dark” due to lack of electricity. Thanks to the closure of coal mines and the decline of fossil fuel generators, Britain has lost fuel capacity, meaning there is “much less flexibility” in supply. He warned that in future richer customers may be able to pay for the better, more reliable service while poorer people have their energy supply rationed. “At the moment everyone has the same network – with some difference between rural and urban – but this is changing and these changes will produce some choices for society,” he said.
BORIS JOHNSON has snubbed a demand from Tony Blair for even more resources to assist his work in the Middle East. The former prime minister is reported to have requested extra armoured cars and escort vehicles fitted with diplomatic number plates, along with more drivers, but saw his plea turned down by Mr Johnson. According to The Sun, the Foreign Secretary mangled one of Mr Blair’s most famous phrases in response to the demand. Mr Johnson wrote: “Sadly I feel the hand of prudence on my shoulder. At this time, I can’t provide you with additional money”. In 1998, ahead of Good Friday peace talks in Northern Ireland, Mr Blair had insisted he felt “the hand of history upon our shoulders”.
Unaccompanied child migrants brought to the UK from Calais are disappearing, feared to have been entrapped in slavery and prostitution by their traffickers. A freedom of information request lodged by Ecpat UK, which campaigns against child trafficking and exploitation, and the charity Missing People last month revealed that more than 500 unaccompanied child asylum seekers and 167 trafficked children went missing at least once in the year to September 2015. Of those, 207 have still not been found. David Simmonds, chairman of the asylum, migration, and refugee task force at the Local Government Association, told The Sunday Times that the children may have been entrapped by traffickers who agreed to take payment for the journey after they had arrived in Europe. “Absconding is a big problem, specifically from this cohort,” Mr. Simmonds, deputy leader of Hillingdon council in west London, said.