Ministers are poised to accept the EU’s timetable for Brexit, it was claimed last night. Brussels’ Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier last month proposed a transition period after the official Brexit day to last until New Year’s Eve 2020. It would give us three fewer months to make our transition out of the EU than the two years Theresa May originally asked for. But the Government are thought to be gearing up to accept that date. A Whitehall source involved with Brexit planning told the Sun : “The EU timetable is the working assumption and no one seems too upset by that.” Number 10 said the matter was still up for negotiation. It’s thought the earlier date is intended to avoid Britain getting caught up in a new, seven year EU budget cycle.

BRITAIN will finally cut ties with Brussels three months earlier than planned on New Year’s Eve 2020, The Sun can reveal. UK Brexit negotiators are preparing to concede to a transition period shorter than the original two years asked for by Theresa May last year. The PM used her big speech in Florence last September to suggest at phased withdrawal of “around two years” to allow business time to adjust after Brexit. But the EU’s negotiating chief Michel Barnier has said it should cut off on 31 December 2020 – one year and nine months after exit day on 31 March 2019. Now the Government are gearing up to accept the exit timetabling suggested by Brussels rather than London. A Whitehall source directly involved with the UK’s exit planning told The Sun: “The EU timetable is the working assumption and no one seems too upset by that.”

Philip Hammond will today begin a Brexit charm offensive across Europe amid concerns that France is deliberately stalling negotiations in a bid to take business from the City. The Chancellor appears to have been sidelined from a series of major Brexit interventions by Cabinet ministers over the next fortnight. Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Mr Davis and Liam Fox will all give keynote speeches on the  “road to Brexit” but the Mr Hammond will not be giving an address. He will instead today visit Norway and Sweden, before heading to the Netherlands tomorrow, Spain on Thursday and Portugal on Friday as he appeals directly to European leaders in a bid to make a breakthrough in negotiations.


BRITAIN is ready to launch a Brexit charm offensive in a bid to speak directly to EU member states and stop France’s plot to lure City bankers after the UK leaves the bloc. Philip Hammond will visit Sweden and the Netherlands before making his way to Spain and Portugal. He will also visit Norway. Although not an EU member, Oslo maintains close ties to the bloc, which could provide a blueprint for a future British deal.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer hopes to break the Brexit deadlock and appeal directly to EU member states amid fears France is blocking talks.  France has unveiled plans to lure City workers away from Britain after Brexit in a desperate attempt to make Paris, Europe’s financial centre.  London finances around 40 to 50 percent of the continent’s financial services and Mr Macron is hoping to take some of the spoils for France. The French President plans to lure global banks from the City of London to Paris after Brexit and his minister of finance and economy Bruno Le Maire said France’s sights are on JP Morgan, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, which all have offices in London. 

Britain will be plunged into its most acute constitutional crisis since the Second World War if Theresa May allows Brexit to be thwarted or watered down, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said. Mr. Farage – the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) who did more than anyone else to bring about the Brexit referendum – said the establishment was working to keep the UK tied to the bloc. He specifically named the Hungarian-American banking billionaire and pro-open borders activists George Soros, who is funding efforts to overthrow the government and block the democratic will of the British people, calling for an “investigation” into his influence. Mr. Farage also slammed “Theresa the appeaser” for caving to almost all of the bloc’s demands during Brexit negotiations and claimed the EU was humiliating the UK during the process.

Brexiteers have more reasons to be worried about the direction the government are going in Theresa May now reportedly wants to keep Britain tied to EU-run police agreements that could see Brits shipped off abroad to face Mickey Mouse charges in foreign courts. May is reportedly going to announce on Saturday that she wants to keep the UK tied to the European Arrest Warrant as well as Europol membership. The likes of Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg have been critical of the dangers posed by the EAW before. This isn’t taking back control of the British legal system – UK nationals could still find themselves being sent abroad to face pathetic charges in court cases presided over by European judges. Theresa the Appeaser is so focused on buttering up Brussels that she’s forgotten to represent 17.4 million Brexiteers.


THE European Union is scrambling to find ways to plug an estimated £11.5bn (€13bn) budget black hole after Brexit, with ideas currently on the table ranging from cuts to its flagship policies to a bloc-wide plastic tax. EU finance bosses are considering a raft of new levies to drum up cash after Britain’s departure, including an increased tourist tax and asking member states to pay more in contributions – a controversial proposal which is likely to be an extremely tough sell. In addition to the forecasted deficit, Europe is also facing the prospect of needing to find an additional £8.85 billion (€10 billion) to fund border protection, tackling terrorism and defence projects. And although Britain has committed to honour its financial obligations until 2020, the EU is now facing the difficult challenge of drawing up a budget blueprint for the next seven years.

Brussels is preparing to improve its Brexit trade offer amid disarray at Michel Barnier’s hardline approach. EU chiefs said there was pressure from EU capitals to scrap its chief negotiator’s strategy. They want to ‘leave the door open’ to Theresa May but only if she reveals what she wants from a future relationship. Last week Mr Barnier claimed disagreements put the two-year Brexit transition period in doubt.  His threat of a ‘punishment clause’ on the UK during the transition period, which would allow the bloc to impose tariffs until 2021, has also left several EU states reeling. But EU diplomats and officials yesterday hinted Brussels was prepared to soften its stance. It would see the bloc offering the UK a ‘tailor-made’ trade deal, rather than a deal similar to the EU and Canada’s, which has been suggested and which Mrs May deems unacceptable. A senior EU official said: ‘Some member states are saying ‘we can’t prescribe what the UK should do’, others are saying ‘yes but we should leave the door open’.

The founding fathers of the European Union did not create the common market to tear down barriers to trade but to pursue a political project, Boris Johnson will argue this week, in a speech setting out what he claims is a liberal vision for Brexit. The foreign secretary will call on remain and leave voters to unite, insisting that Britain can take advantage of the referendum vote for economic gain but only if it is ready to diverge on regulations. In the first of a series of speeches by senior cabinet ministers, Johnson wants to appeal to the instincts of those who voted remain, but his argument will be heavily criticised by those who see the EU as a major liberalising force. Sources revealed that an early draft of the speech echoed arguments that the cabinet minister made in a recent interview with the Guardian. “What I would like to see is this country taking advantage of the people’s decision, to get the best economic result from that decision, and do the best we can do,” said Johnson.

Customs union

Australia’s high commissioner to the UK has spoken out about the benefits of Britain leaving the customs union after its exit from the EU next year – saying that by negotiating unilateral trade agreements instead, the country would be able to retain control of its trade policy. Speaking to BBC radio, Alexander Downer said that Australia had experienced the “huge advantages of unilateral trade liberalisation” itself. “The fact is that it does lead to some economic restructuring – some redirection of investment. But it also contributes to economic reform, and you need a constant rate of economic reform to achieve high rates of economic growth,” he said. “It’s worked for us with 26 consecutive years of economic growth, partially because we’ve opened our market to the world,” he added. Continued membership of the customs union has represented a major subject of debate for politicians both in the UK and in Brussels. Staying in would be the only way Britain can guarantee continued tariff-free trade with the bloc, but both the Conservatives and Labour have ruled that option out. Leaving it, by contrast, would guarantee the ability to agree new free trade agreements with other nations.

BRITAIN must quit the EU’s customs union to ensure trade with Australia and other powerhouse economies grows “substantially” after Brexit, a senior diplomat said today. Australian High Commissioner Alexander Downer predicted that a bilateral trade deal between the UK and his nation could bring huge benefits for both countries including slashing the cost of food, clothing and other consumer goods. But he warned that such an agreement is only possible if Theresa May’s Government regains full control of trade policy through a clean break with Brussels. He said: “We want to build back our trade with the UK.  “We could build substantially more trade if we were able to negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK.”

Northern Ireland

Theresa May today urged the DUP and Sinn Fein to make ‘one final push’ to come to a powersharing deal – and said an agreement should be done ‘very soon’. The Prime Minister said she had ‘full and frank conversations’ with all five parties holding talks in Stormont and said ‘there is the basis of an agreement here’. 
And in her first visit to Belfast since powersharing collapsed 13 months ago, she said it was now for the main parties to thrash out the details of a deal. Speaking outside Stormont today, the PM said: ‘I believe it is possible to see the basis of an agreement here. ‘There is the basis of an agreement and it should be possible to see an executive up and running in Northern Ireland very soon.’  ‘We should be able to see an executive up and running very soon.’ Her comments came after Sinn Fein said ‘this is the week’ for a deal to be struck while DUP leader Arlene Foster had said the tone of talks had been good.  But hopes that a deal would be signed up to today – raised by the Prime Minister’s visit to Belfast – were dashed. 

Theresa May has urged Northern Ireland’s political leaders to make “one final push” as she said it is possible to see the power-sharing agreement restored “very soon”. It comes after the Prime Minister  travelled to Belfast amid mounting speculation that a deal could be on the horizon in Northern Ireland – ending a 13-month political stalemate.  While Ms May said “differences remain” between the  Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein at Stormont, she said: “I think there is a basis of an agreement here”. The Prime Minister continued: “It’s been 13 long months since we last saw devolved government here, and I think we are now at the point where it’s time for the local elected representatives to find a way to work together and to deal with, to tackle, the many pressing issues facing Northern Ireland. “I believe it should be possible to see an executive up and running very soon.” 


Oxfam’s chief executive failed to act on allegations that a woman was coerced to have sex in return for aid in a disaster zone, a new whistleblower has claimed. Helen Evans, the charity’s global head of safeguarding from 2012-15, claimed that Mark Goldring and his leadership team cancelled a meeting to discuss her concerns about widespread abuse involving Oxfam workers. The alleged abuse included a female aid worker being raped by a colleague in South Sudan and a teenage volunteer being assaulted by an adult staff member in a high street charity shop in Britain. After leaving Oxfam Ms Evans took her complaints and documentary evidence to the Charity Commission and the Department for International Development.

The sexual misconduct scandal at Oxfam  deepened on Monday night as the charity’s former head of safeguarding revealed teenage volunteers at UK shops had been abused and overseas staff had traded aid for sex. In some of the most explosive allegations yet against the charity, Helen Evans accused her bosses of ignoring her evidence and her pleas for more resources, forcing her to quit in despair.  Ms Evans said that staff had been accused of rape and that sexual abuse by shop managers in UK stores against young volunteers was covered up. 
Ten per cent of staff in some countries had been sexually assaulted by colleagues or witnessed abuse, she added. Her allegations emerged just hours after Penny Lawrence, the charity’s deputy chief executive, quit over the scandal and the Government announced that it would be launching a unit to investigate sex abuse in the aid sector. 

The Oxfam scandal widened dramatically last night after claims of sex abuse spread to its charity shops. A whistle-blower revealed that the beleaguered charity has faced multiple allegations, including alleged abuse of children by its volunteers. And it emerged that Oxfam had not carried out criminal record checks on the 23,000 volunteers who staff its 650 shops. The Mail has seen figures showing that 123 alleged incidents of sexual harassment have been investigated in its stores in just nine years. Helen Evans, the charity’s former safeguarding chief, said she had begged senior staff, ministers and regulators to act on sexual abuse allegations she had uncovered. She also revealed that Oxfam staff had faced allegations of trading aid for sex, attempted rape, sexual exploitation, sexual coercion and abuse. A survey found more than one in ten staff from programmes in three separate countries had seen or experienced sexual assaults.


The Commonwealth has begun secret deliberations to decide who will succeed the Queen as its head on her death, according to the BBC. Although Prince Charles will become King on the death of his mother, the head of the Commonwealth is not a hereditary position. On Monday night, the BBC reported that it had set up a “high level group” to consider the way ahead. It is due to meet in London to review how it is run by its secretariat and governors. A senior source said: “I imagine the question of the succession, however distasteful it may naturally be, will come up.” The Queen turns 92 in April. She was proclaimed head of the Commonwealth at her coronation when she became head of state in seven of its eight members.


Thousands of elderly people are waiting too long in hospital before surgery for hip fractures, according to new NHS data. In some areas the national 36-hour target is met less than half of the time. The health service’s performance has dipped over the past two years after nearly a decade of improvements. The proportion of hip fracture patients over 60 treated within the national standard fell substantially in 2016 after a small drop the year before. According to data from NHS Digital, the proportion of patients treated within 36 hours after hospital admission fell by 2.6 percentage points, to 72 per cent. In 2015 it fell by 0.6 percentage points. The target recommended by leading national fracture experts is 85 per cent.

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Admissions to NHS hospital for eating disorders have nearly doubled in six years, figures have revealed. Data from NHS Digital show admissions for conditions including anorexia and bulimia reached 13,885 between April 2016 and 2017 – the highest levels in six years and almost double the 7,260 admissions for the year up to April 2011. The number of under-18 female admissions for anorexia have also jumped in the six-year period, from 961 in 2010-11, to almost 1,904 in the latest figures. The Government said it is aiming to provide treatment within one week for 95% of children and young people referred for urgent cases of an eating disorder by 2020. “We are committed to ensuring everyone with an eating disorder has access to timely treatment,” a Department of Health spokesman said: “We know the numbers seeking treatment are rising and it’s encouraging to see an increase in patients getting routine care within four weeks, as well as a significant improvement in treatment times compared to last year.


Anti-inflammatory arthritis drugs could halve the risk of developing dementia, a study suggests. Chronic inflammation has increasingly been linked to dementia, and experts said it was plausible that medicine to counter the problem could reduce patients’ risk. People taking drugs such as methotrexate were found to be significantly less likely to develop conditions such as Alzheimer’s. While the results are not conclusive and it is too soon for the drugs to be prescribed in this way, academics called for full trials to see whether they could be used eventually to ward off dementia. More than 850,000 people in Britain have dementia and there is no effective treatment to deal with the underlying brain damage that causes the disease.

More than a third of dementia patients are denied the best care, a charity said yesterday. They should all be given an individual treatment plan when they are diagnosed. But figures compiled by Age UK show that only 62 per cent of patients receive one. This means tens of thousands miss out on counselling sessions, home visits from specialist nurses and activities such as dance and art. Age UK said care provision varied widely across the country. In Norfolk patients in the later stages of dementia are given ‘admiral’ nurses trained to deal with their needs. More than a third of dementia patients are denied the best care, a charity said. Camden in north London offers weekly counselling sessions to help sufferers come to terms with their illness – but patients elsewhere say they are all but abandoned. ‘Our analysis suggests many people with dementia are losing out on the NHS follow-up support they need and are supposed always to be offered, once they have received their diagnosis,’ said Caroline Abrahams of Age UK.


Ukip’s party chairman Paul Oakden dramatically quit his post tonight but insisted to party members it was not an effort to force out Henry Bolton as leader. In an email to members, Mr Oakden said he would go regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s extraordinary general meeting. He said he had resigned ‘voluntarily’ at the end of January and insisted he remained committed to Ukip, which has sunk in the polls and been mired in chaos since the referendum. The email is Mr Oakden’s second missive today after earlier having to assure members there had not been a ‘coup’ in Ukip after he was wrongly named as ‘interim leader’ in a message over the weekend.  Saturday’s gathering of party members in Birmingham will decide whether Mr Bolton keeps his job after he left wife and children for an affair with a 25-year-old glamour model. Mr Bolton lost a vote of no confidence among senior party figures last month despite warnings triggering another leadership contest could bankrupt Ukip. Despite saying he would leave his job regardless of the vote on Saturday, Mr Oakden hinted he could contest any future race for leader.

Ukip has been plunged into further chaos after the party’s chairman resigned. Paul Oakden said he would step down on Saturday after chairing an emergency general meeting (EGM) at which the party’s current leader, Henry Bolton, will face a vote of no confidence. Mr Oakden, who has been chairman since July 2016, said the role had been an “honour and a privilege” but that he was stepping down “entirely of my own volition”. He said he had voluntarily terminated his contract with Ukip at the end of January and on Monday informed the party’s national executive committee (NEC) that he would be standing down. His resignation comes hours after he was forced to email party members insisting there was “not a coup” following an email being sent out in his name that described him as “interim leader”.


A lava dome discovered in the Pacific Ocean off southern Japan contains more than 7.5 cubic miles of volcanic magma and could kill as many as 100 million people if it erupts, according to Japanese scientists. In a paper published in Scientific Reports, researchers at the Kobe Ocean Bottom Exploration Centre reported that the lava dome – one of the largest ever discovered in the world – is expanding within the Kikai Caldera, an undersea volcano just over 30 miles from the southern tip of Kyushu, the most southerly of Japan’s main islands. The dome stands nearly 2,000 feet proud of the seabed and is now a mere 100 feet beneath the surface.

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