Brexit

Express
PRESSURE is mounting on Theresa May to deliver a proper Brexit with two leading groups in the Tory Party having issued 10 red lines warning against more concessions to Brussels. The Bow Group, chaired by former cabinet minister Lord Tebbit, and the eurosceptic Bruges Group have laid out a series of demands to the Prime Minister including a pledge that Article 50 will not be reversed, the UK will not sign up to any part of an EU army in talks over security and tough new immigration rules are put in place. The pressure mounting on Mrs May from groups representing a strong majority for Leave in the Tory party, comes as Brexit Secretary David Davis has reportedly told civil servants to speed up the talks. 
Mr Davis’ intervention follows an article by former cabinet minister Owen Paterson, a board member of Leave Means Leave, arguing that the principles of a trade deal must be agreed by March. Meanwhile, it is understood that Boris Johnson has told friends that he is concerned that other members of the cabinet are trying to stop a clean Brexit in what appears to be more pressure on Mrs May as 2018 begins with make or break Brexit talks set to be concluded this year.

Times
Ministers have been advised to try to negotiate a transition period if talks with the EU end without a deal to give Britain more time to prepare for a hard Brexit. Whitehall believes that Britain could be given additional time by the EU to cushion a hard landing after March 29 next year in the event that talks break down over a future free trade agreement (FTA). Europe does not want a sudden £8 billion black hole to appear in its budgets in either 2019 or 2020, and neither the EU nor the UK wants to cause precipitous damage to their economies. As such British officials believe that it is more likely that there will be an implementation period after 2019.

Express
DAVID Davis has turned the European Union’s negotiating mantra against the bloc as he warned Brussels that it cannot cherry pick the terms of a free trade deal. The Brexit Secretary declared Britain will push for “the full sweep of economic cooperation” and that financial services must not be excluded from any agreement. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has repeatedly insisted the UK cannot choose to keep the best elements of membership when it quits the bloc. No trade agreement exists that includes financial services and the City of London will inevitably face curbs on access, he has warned. But Mr Davis said a deal that took some areas of the current economic relationship but not others would be “cherry picking”. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: “Brexit will allow us to take control of our borders, our money and our laws. We will use the opportunity of an independent trade policy to strike deals with other countries from around the world. 

Sky News
Brexit Secretary David Davis has warned the EU negotiators they cannot “cherry pick” the terms of any free trade deal with Britain. In words that echo those frequently used by the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, Mr Davis said Britain would not entertain a deal that took some areas of the existing economic relationship but not others. Writing for the Daily Telegraph, Mr Davis said Britain wanted “the full sweep of economic co-operation” and that financial services must not be excluded from any agreement – despite Mr Barnier’s insistence last month that such an arrangement would not be possible. “I do not believe the strength of this co-operation needs change because we are leaving the European Union,” Mr Davis said. “Many of these principles can be applied to services trade too. Given the strength and breadth of the pan-European economic relationship, a deal that took in some areas of our economic relationship but not others would be, in the favoured phrase of EU diplomats, cherry picking.” He also warned that the City of London would inevitably face curbs on access, with Mr Barnier having ruled out a “special deal” for the capital.

Guardian
The Brexit secretary, David Davis, has turned the European Union’s negotiating mantra against the bloc to warn that it cannot “cherrypick” the terms of a free trade deal. Britain wants “the full sweep of economic cooperation” and financial services must not be excluded from any agreement, Davis said. The EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has repeatedly insisted that the UK cannot choose to keep the best elements of membership when it quits the bloc. He has warned that no trade agreement exists that would include financial services and the City of London must inevitably face curbs on access. But Davis has hit back, claiming that a deal that took some areas of the current economic relationship but not others would be “cherrypicking”. In an article for the Daily Telegraph, he wrote: “I do not believe the strength of this cooperation needs to change because we are leaving the  European Union. “Many of these principles can be applied to services trade too. Given the strength and breadth of the pan-European economic relationship, a deal that took in some areas of our economic relationship but not others would be, in the favoured phrase of EU diplomats, cherrypicking.” The government is under pressure to provide more clarity for business as the new phase of exit talks begin. EU leaders in the rest of the bloc remained united during the first stage of negotiations, but the bond could be tested as the EU considers what kind of trading terms are on offer to the UK – an important export market for many member states.

NHS

Times
Missed hospital appointments cost the NHS almost £1 billion a year and deprive patients of vital care, the health service’s top nurse has said. As the service heads into what is likely to be the busiest week of the winter, Jane Cummings, the chief nursing officer for England, called for the public to be more responsible about wasting time and resources. A million more cataract operations or 250,000 hip replacements could be funded if the NHS did not have to pay for appointments that people failed to attend, she said. Official figures show that 7.9 million appointments were missed in 2016-17, meaning that patients do not turn up to one in 15 of the 119 million scheduled.

Mirror
The number of elderly people being rushed to A&E from care homes has risen 62% since the Tories took power. In 2010/11, the number of emergency admissions from care homes was 17,539 and by 2016/17 it was 28,471. Health Minister Philip Dunne revealed the official NHS data in a written parliamentary answer. Shadow Social Care Minister Barbara Keeley said: “Without the right care and support, many elderly people are reaching crisis point and ending up in hospital. “These shocking figures will alarm families with older relatives who need residential care. “Harsh cuts by the Tory Government to local authority budgets are hitting adult social care budgets and care quality.”

Immigration

Independent
Ministers are braced for a defeat that would force Theresa May to abandon her much-criticised policy of counting foreign students as immigrants in official statistics. A new  Immigration Bill to be brought forward this year will allow MPs to force – and almost certainly win – a vote on the controversy, the Home Office believes. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, is believed to have warned the Prime Minister that growing support for the rethink in Parliament means a U-turn is now inevitable. Taking foreign students out of the official figures will be embarrassing for Mrs May, who has resisted the move as weakening the defences against higher immigration. However, her claim that up to 100,000 foreign students a year fail to go home after graduating fell apart when official exit checks revealed that fewer than 5,000 overstay when their visas expire. The Prime Minister has been left in what has been described as “a minority of one” as Cabinet opposition to the policy has grown. Ms Rudd, the Chancellor Philip Hammond and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have all called for it to be scrapped – as have business and university leaders. Universities have warned that classing the students as long-term migrants is deterring young people from coming to Britain to study and damaging its successful higher education sector.

Breitbart
Prime Minister Theresa May is set to cave to pressure from left-wingers in her own party and cabinet in their bid to fudge UK immigration figures. Leading leftist Tories have been campaigning for the Prime Minister to remove student numbers from the nation’s immigration data, artificially reducing statistics to help the government reach its long-standing aspiration of lowering numbers into the tens of thousands. The strategy may be an attempt to defang immigration hawks and Brexit campaigners amongst them by diluting one of their key campaign talking points: Britain’s migration crisis. Over the past few decades immigration has reached unprecedented levels in the UK, placing strain on national infrastructure, the National Health Service, schools, and community cohesion. Now, Scottish Conservative MPs led by Ruth Davidson alongside left-wing Home Secretary Amber Rudd want to artificially remove around 75,000 people a year from the figures to help fool the public. May had originally objected to the move, stating in November: “Students are in the net migration figures because it is in the international definition of net migration and we abide by the same definition that is used by other countries around the world.” A government source told the 
Daily Mail this week: “It is inevitable that someone will bring forward an amendment on this, and it is very difficult to see how we could defeat it.”

Northern Ireland

Independent
Direct rule should be imposed in Northern Ireland within weeks if its political crisis cannot be solved, the leader of the  Democratic Unionist Party has said. Arlene Foster put the  Stormont stalemate near the top of Theresa May’s New Year problem list, as she blamed Sinn Fein for the failure to re-establish a devolved executive. The Prime Minister has sought to avoid the draconian step of rule from Westminster, despite it being almost exactly a year since Northern Ireland had a functioning administration. In her New Year message, Mrs Foster said the return of “locally elected and accountable politicians” remained the best way to run Northern Ireland. However, she added: “A return to direct rule would be an inferior alternative, but it would be a government. “But the people of Northern Ireland deserve a government and if Sinn Fein persist with their intransigence then the Secretary of State [James Brokenshire] should move to appoint direct rule ministers early in the New Year.”

Express
SUPPORT for a ‘United Ireland’ has soared after December’s chaotic Brexit negotiations. A unified Ireland, with Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom and rejoining the Republic of Ireland, has risen in popularity in the Republic of Ireland through the last nine months of 2017. A new poll of citizens in the Republic has seen support for unification increase by a huge margin – even if Dublin was presented with an annual tax bill of £8 billion to cover the cost.  Financial concerns in Dublin has often been seen as a barrier to unification, which also crucially rests on support north, rather than south, of the border.  Pollsters Ireland Thinks interviewed 1,144 people in the Republic of Ireland between December 14 and 22 with results in staggering contrast to those recorded earlier this year.  In a similar poll in March, when undecided respondents were excluded, support for unification was at exactly 50:50 between those in favour and those against. 

Rail fares

Telegraph
Ministers are considering a crackdown on “rip off” rail fare rises after Tory MPs warned that price hikes are heaping “financial misery” on commuters and could cost the Conservatives at the next election. The Telegraph understands that Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, has asked officials to produce plans to peg future increases to a lower rate of inflation in a bid to ease the burden on rail passengers. It comes as commuters returning to work face fare rises of 3.4 per cent, the highest in five years with season tickets on some of the country’s busiest routes rising by more than £100. Protests are planned at around 40 railway stations to mark the increase. The rises have been condemned by Tory MPs and members of the Government amid mounting concerns that they are fuelling support for Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader.

Mail
Rail commuters are paying up to £2,500 more for a season ticket to work than they were at the beginning of the decade. As passengers are hit today with the biggest fare increases in five years, a report reveals the cost of some season tickets has soared by as much as 50 per
cent since 2010. The analysis by the Labour party of more than 180 routes found the average commuter will be paying £2,888 for their season ticket – £694 more than in 2010.  The highest increase in cash terms was on a Virgin Trains season ticket between Birmingham and London Euston, which has risen by £2,536 since 2010 and now costs £10,564. The biggest percentage increase was between Tame Bridge Parkway near Walsall and Nuneaton, where the cost of a season ticket has risen 50 per cent or £968 to £2,916.

ITV News
Passengers on Britain’s railways will face the largest fare rise in five years on the first working day of 2018. Protests are planned for 40 stations in opposition to an average price hike of 3.4% on Tuesday – the biggest increase since 2013. Many season tickets have shot up by more than £100, including in Theresa May’s constituency of Maidenhead, where an annual pass to London rose by £104 to £3,092. Other commuter routes that are now more expensive include Liverpool to Manchester (up £108 to £3,152), Neath to Cardiff (up £56 to £1,708) and Elgin to Inverness (up £100 to £2,904). Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT), accused the Government of choosing to “snub rail passengers” by continuing to raise fares while fuel duty is frozen for a seventh consecutive year. CBT figures show that average season tickets into London terminals have gone up by £146 this year, compared with £74 last January. “The extra money that season ticket holders will have to fork out this year is almost as much as drivers will save,” Joseph said. “That doesn’t seem fair to us or the millions of people who commute by train, especially as wages continue to stagnate. What’s good enough for motorists should be good enough for rail passengers.”

Independent
Rail commuters are paying up to £2,539 more for annual season tickets than when the Conservatives came to power, it is revealed today – as prices rise again for the new year. Labour said train travel was now “unaffordable for the many”, highlighting huge price hikes since 2010 in the constituencies of Theresa May  and other key cabinet ministers. Worst hit are passengers between Birmingham  and London Euston, who will now be paying £10,567 for a Virgin Trains season ticket – up a staggering £2,539 since the start of the decade, Labour said. It means the cost has soared by 32 per cent since the Conservatives entered Downing Street, far outstripping mostly-low inflation over the same period. But even that hike is dwarfed by the 50 per cent leap in the cost of an annual season ticket between Tame Bridge Parkway, near Walsall, and Nuneaton, the largest uncovered by Labour. Andy McDonald, the Shadow Transport Secretary, said: “The Tories’ failure on our railways means passengers have faced truly staggering fare rises of over £2,500 since 2010, with fares having increased three times as much as wages.

Times
Rail commuters face spending a far greater proportion of their income on fares than anyone else in Europe after the biggest price rises since 2013. Research shows that regular travellers will spend as much as 13 per cent of their salary travelling to work by train in Britain from today. This compares with between 2.5 per cent and 5 per cent of workers’ salaries in countries such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The findings come as millions of passengers returning to work after the festive season are hit with the biggest fare increase in five years. Fares will rise by an average of 3.4 per cent, with season tickets going up by 3.6 per cent.

Apocalypse

Star
A PASSAGE in the Bible has predicted that the world will come to an end in 2018, according to conspiracy theorist. 2017 was the year of conspiracy theories, with crackpot David Meade predicted that a giant planet called Nibiru would crash into Earth, killing us all. But despite Mr Meade’s claims, life continued and the Earth was not consumed by a massive fireball. Now, another armageddon theory, based on one of the oldest books in the world, is predicting that death and destruction will come in 2018. Conspiracy theorist Mathieu Jean-Marc Joseph Rodrigue has highlighted a passage in the Book of Revelations as a sign that 2018 could be the Earth’s last year. It reads: “He was given authority to act for 42 months.” Mr Joseph Rodrigue reckons the passage from Revelations when added to the crop harvest and price indicates a shocking truth. He wrote: “I heard a voice in the middle of the four living beings. “This is wisdom. He who has intelligence can interpret the figure of the beast. “It represents the name of a man. His figure is 666.” To find the date of the apocalypse, he takes the 666 figure and adds it to his earlier calculations, with the 42 months from the bible.

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