Brexit

Times
Brexit-supporting cabinet ministers are demanding that the chancellor caps Britain’s EU “divorce bill” at £3 billion, The Times has learnt. The Brexiteers are concerned that Philip Hammond will not be sufficiently tough with the EU, which is set to demand up to €60 billion (£50 billion) from Britain once Theresa May triggers Article 50 on Wednesday next week. This month Mr Hammond said that Britain is “a nation that honours its obligations, and if we do have any bills that fall to be paid we’ll obviously deal with them in the proper way”. The bill, which is expected to be the first hurdle in negotiations, is for financial liabilities that the EU believes Britain has.

Independent
EU leaders reject claims that Britain will escape a multi billion-pound ‘divorce bill’ it if walks away with no post-Brexit deal, the UK’s ‘man in Brussels’ has warned. Sir Tim Barrow, Britain’s ambassador to the EU, sought to dampen growing Brexiteer enthusiasm to quit without paying “a brass farthing” as one Conservative MP put it. “My counterparts have an interest in other legal opinions which have been forthcoming, which offer a different interpretation,” Sir Tim told a parliamentary inquiry. The view appeared to open up a split with David Jones, a minister in the Brexit department, who welcomed the ‘no exit fee’ argument – first put forward in an explosive House of Lords report. Mr Jones said: “Certainly the House of Lords committee report was extremely helpful. I’m sure it’s not gone unnoticed in Brussels and in other European capitals.”

BBC News
Prime Minister Theresa May is to officially notify the European Union next Wednesday that the UK is leaving. Downing Street said she would write a letter to the European Council, adding that it hoped negotiations on the terms of exit and future relations could then begin as quickly as possible. The move comes nine months after a referendum in which the UK voted to leave by a margin of 51.9% to 48.1%. An EU spokesman said it was “ready and waiting” for the letter. Under the Article 50 process, talks on the terms of exit and future relations are not allowed until the UK formally tells the EU it is leaving. If all goes according to the two year negotiations allowed for in the official timetable, Brexit should happen in March 2019.

Sun
THE countdown to the UK’s historic EU break-away will begin a week tomorrow, Theresa May has revealed. The PM said she will trigger our formal “Article 50” exit notification to  fire the starting gun on two years of tough negotiations. The landmark decision means the UK will leave the EU by March 29, 2019 — as Mrs May has also ruled out any extension to talks. At the same time yesterday, Downing Street firmly ruled out an early snap general election so the Government can focus on Brexit. Quashing weeks of idle speculation, the PM’s official spokesman said: “It is not going to happen”. And a Cabinet minister dismissed suggestions that an election was imminent as “just b******s”.

General Election

Sun
THERESA May ruled out a snap election and it can be revealed Tory MPs had begged the Prime Minister 
NOT to go to the country in an early poll. West Country Conservatives — who routed the Lib Dems from the south west in 2015 — feared a fresh contest so close to the Brexit vote could give the pro-EU party a foothold, putting the PM’s 17 seat majority at risk. Concerned Cornwall and Devon MPs warned Downing Street they risked a wipe out from angry Remain backers switching back to the Lib Dems that could see a dozen Tory losses at an early poll. A source said: “It’s all still very raw and an a surprise election would only poke the hornet’s nest”. A cabinet minister who has discussed the matter with No 10 dismissed the speculation that an election was imminent as “just b*****ks”.

Independent
Downing Street has emphatically ruled out an early general election after rumours that Theresa May could go to the electorate ahead of Brexit negotiations. Some newspapers had reported that Ms May could schedule a snap election for May 4 and announce it on the day she triggers Article 50. The Prime Minister has consistently ruled out holding a snap election, arguing that it would bring additional uncertainty to the UK at a time when continuity was needed.

EU

Express
THE head of the European Commission sparked fury after he claimed that Britain will be offered a like it or lump it deal so bad that no other country will want to leave the EU. The “ludicrous” attack by Jean Claude Juncker came as Prime Minister Theresa May announced the date she will trigger the process to end Brussels rule. Meanwhile the commission’s chief negotiator tried to raise the stakes by saying the other 27 EU countries should prepare for customs controls with the UK. The “spiteful” threats stand in stark contrast to the reasonable stance taken by the UK Government seeking a deal which will benefit the UK and EU. The UK will have “the choice to eat what’s on the table or not come to the table at all”, Mr Juncker told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Sun
BRITAIN’S Brexit process will make other EU states think leaving the block is “not worth leaving”, Jean-Claude Juncker has threatened. The President of the European Commission said that the UK “example” would put others off – in a hint that EU leaders are set to punish us for quitting the bloc. Mr Juncker told the Bild newspaper that the UK would need to “prepare itself to be treated as a third country” and vowed that no other members would leave once they saw how Britain would be treated. He said: “The remaining member states will fall in love with each other again and renew their vows with the European Union,” he said. “They will all see from Britain’s example that leaving the EU is a bad idea.”
He was convinced that no other state would want to leave afterwards – and that more countries were lining up to JOIN the bloc. Furious Tory MPs lined up to slam his comments. Peter Bone told MailOnline: “It’s like the dying words of the leader of an empire as it collapses.”

Express
GERMAN MPs have launched an audacious bid to get British officials and politicians banned from EU meetings over fears they will leak the bloc’s Brexit strategy to Downing Street. Members of the Bundestag have begun grumbling about the UK having “moles” in Brussels and claim they are using underhand tactics to gain an edge ahead of the upcoming divorce talks. They want to bring in new rules which will put British representatives in “quarantine” meaning they cannot attend any meetings or event which are to do with Brexit. Amazingly the proposed measure would even include our elected MEPs, who would no longer be allowed to take part in crucial debates concerning the future relationship between the EU and the UK. It is being championed by senior MPs in Berlin but is unlikely to receive much support in Brussels itself, where eurocrats are keen not to overly marginalise their British co-workers.  German representatives have complained that officials from the UK are refusing to leave meetings when material sensitive to the other 27 member states is brought up, saying they “pointedly” stay in their seats. 

Times
The European Union’s plans to hold a Brexit summit were in turmoil yesterday after Theresa May delayed triggering Article 50 until next week. Diplomats and officials in Brussels had hoped to hold a council of the EU’s 27 governments as early as April 6. However, No 10’s confirmation of March 29 as the trigger date has pushed back the timetable. Brussels faces holding the meeting in the middle of French elections at the end of April or a delay into mid-May. The former could play into the hands of Marine Le Pen, the French National Front leader, and the latter would mean the loss of a month of negotiating time in talks that already have a difficult two-year deadline.

Independent
The UK’s ambassador to Europe has warned that the EU will push for Britain to pay a hefty Brexit “divorce bill” after Theresa May triggers Article 50 on 29 March. Sir Tim Barrow said EU leaders would take no notice of claims in London that Britain could quit without paying “a brass farthing”, with concern mounting that the bill could be as high as £60bn. His warning was mirrored in comments made by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who said the UK would have to accept the deal offered or leave with no deal, after Ms May confirmed next Wednesday as the moment  Article 50 would be invoked. Sources told 
The Independent that the letter Ms May will send to the EU to officially launch the Brexit process was likely to set out the broad negotiating objectives that were contained in her landmark speech at Lancaster House.

Express
THE GOVERNMENT was today urged to remind Germany how huge sums of its debts were cancelled after the Second World War as Theresa May prepares to enter Brexit negotiations. Prominent Tory MP and veteran eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash suggested ministers “bear in mind” a post-war deal that saw Germany’s debt halved amid likely demands Britain pay a multi-billion pound EU exit fee. Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is ready to hit the Prime Minister with a eye-watering departure bill as soon as Article 50 divorce talks are triggered next Wednesday – with it believed the EU could demand the UK pay as much as £50billion. But Sir Bill this afternoon advised Brexit minister David Jones to contemplate the 1953 London Debt Agreement should his department be faced with such a bill.

Express
EUROCRATS have quietly axed a traditional debate on the size and priorities of the EU parliament’s budget following a backlash against chronic waste of taxpayers’ cash, Express.co.uk can reveal today. Senior officials have dropped plans to hold a discussion on 2018 spending commitments in light of a series of controversies over pay and perks afforded to officials. Brussels has been stung by criticism over its proposals to bankroll a permanent armed guard for the EU parliament president, Antonio Tajani, and to invest in new restaurant and creche facilities. The plans to boost its budget to an eye watering £1.7bn provoked a strong negative response from the media and voters when they were leaked last month, coming at a time of continuing austerity in many member states.  And now EU sources have told express.co.uk the budget will no longer be debated by MEPs during next month’s plenary season in a clear break with precedent set in recent years. 

Breitbart
The British government should spend potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds funding a language with just 500 fluent speakers, the Council of Europe has said. A report on the “protection of national minorities” accused the UK government of neglecting Cornish, criticising ministers for cutting funding of up to £150,000 a year for the language, despite the minuscule number of speakers. 
In the 2011 UK Census, a total of 557 people listed Cornish as their main language, 464 of whom lived in Cornwall (out of a total population of over half a million). Around 3,000 people are believed to have some proficiency in the language. The Council of Europe also expressed concern at a lack of funding for Cornish cultural events, such as St Piran’s Day on 5 March.

NHS

Mail
Private ambulance firms hired by struggling NHS trusts may be putting patients at risk, a watchdog warned yesterday. The Care Quality Commission said private ambulances are often dirty and unhygienic, staff are not always properly trained, and some drivers do not even hold the correct driving licences. Professor Sir Mike Richards, England’s chief inspector of hospitals, yesterday wrote to every independent ambulance service in England warning of ‘emerging concerns’ about patient safety. The letter, seen by the Daily Mail, warns them to shape up. 
It identifies ‘common concerns’ about cleanliness, infection control, poor recruitment checks and unsafe medicines management. The letter said the problems had arisen during recent inspections, adding: ‘We are concerned that these might not be isolated findings.’

Independent
Firms including KPMG, McKinsey and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have made millions of pounds from plans that could lead to the closure or downgrade of NHS hospitals. Health bosses have spent at least £17.6m on management consultants to draw up the strategies, which earmark cuts to departments and some A&Es. Sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) have been created in 44 regions in a bid to revolutionise services while saving money in the face of an expected £900m NHS deficit this year. The Press Association used the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to ask clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) how much has been spent on management consultants to formulate the plans. The figures show £17,674,998 has been spent so far, though the final bill is likely to be far higher.

Morning Star
PRIVATEERS have pocketed millions of pounds of NHS cash in a “consultancy gravy train” advising health bosses how to shut down hospitals — to save cash. Management consultants including KPMG, McKinsey and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have been paid a whopping £17.6 million bonanza to devise schemes to shut or downgrade hospitals with A&E departments closing and the loss of thousands of NHS staff, the Press Association said yesterday, following freedom of information requests to clinical commissioning groups. Under NHS England’s government-driven sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), the country’s 44 local areas have had five-year spending plans drawn up in secret. Unveiled quietly last autumn, they have been slammed by campaigners as a massive cuts programme.

BBC

Times
The BBC may lose touch with people who voted for Brexit unless it works harder to be unbiased in its coverage of leaving the EU, a Tory-dominated group of MPs has warned. Dozens of Conservative MPs signed a letter to Lord Hall of Birkenhead, the BBC director-general, and Rona Fairhead, chairwoman of the BBC Trust, urging the corporation to remain impartial. Some Labour MPs are also understood to have signed. The letter was put together by Julian Knight, a former journalist who voted Remain. He said that he had no real complaints about the BBC’s coverage of the referendum itself but believed that it had suffered a “collective nervous breakdown” over the result.

Telegraph
The BBC risks undermining Brexit and damaging the UK’s reputation with its “pessimistic and skewed” coverage, MPs have warned. More than 70  MPs from across the political spectrum have written to Lord Hall, the director-general of the BBC, accusing the corporation of portraying the UK as a “xenophobic” nation that regrets the vote to leave the EU. They say that the corporation has failed to “break out of pre-referendum pessimism” and accept the “economic good news” the UK has enjoyed since the referendum. The letter comes after months of mounting anger in the Conservative Party about the corporation’s coverage of Brexit in the wake of the EU referendum.

Mail
The BBC today stands accused of clear anti-Brexit bias over its coverage of voters’ decision to leave the EU. Around 70 MPs are understood to have signed a letter to director-general Lord Hall last night complaining about the Corporation’s gloomy reporting of the crucial issue. Tory MP Julian Knight, who co-ordinated the letter, warned that the BBC was in danger of losing touch with its viewers and giving too much airtime to ‘diehard Remainers’. It had a duty to offer impartial coverage of Brexit, he said. Mr Knight, a former BBC journalist who backed Remain during last year’s referendum campaign, insisted the letter was not intended as ‘BBC baiting’. But he added: ‘It must be careful not to lose the trust of the 52 per cent who voted Leave, as well as those Remainers like myself who respect the will of the people and want to get on with delivering Brexit.’

Westmonster
Over 70 MPs have written to the BBC, rightly accusing them of “pessimistic and skewed” coverage of Brexit ever since the country voted to Leave the European Union on June 23rd. They’ve written to Lord Hall who is the Director General of the Beeb, putting the state broadcaster on notice. The BBC has consistently hyped up economic doom and gloom whilst barely reporting major investment in Brexit Britain. At times a narrative of Brexit regret and uncertainty has been pushed as well, despite polls show that the country is standing full square behind our EU exit. MPs from the Conservative Party, Labour, Northern Ireland’s DUP and UKIP are also pointing out the xenophobic tinge normally foisted onto the pro-Brexit majority who simply voted for and want to see border controls put in place. For millions and millions of license fee payers, this is their top priority.

McGuiness

Times
Martin McGuinness, the former IRA leader who until earlier this year held the post of deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, has died at the age of 66. The Sinn Féin politician, who stepped down from his post in January, triggering the collapse of the power-sharing agreement, had been suffering from a rare heart condition. He died after a short illness in Derry’s Altnagelvin hospital surrounded by his family. Sinn Féin said in a statement: “It is with deep regret and sadness that we have learnt of the death of our friend and comrade Martin McGuinness who passed away in Derry during the night. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”

Guardian
Martin McGuinness, the former IRA chief of staff and a key figure in the Northern Ireland peace process, has died just two months after stepping down as deputy first minister. The Irish republican died after a short illness in Derry’s Altnagelvin hospital surrounded by his family. He was 66, and had a rare genetic disease caused by deposits of abnormal protein – amyloid – in tissues and organs. Gerry Adams, his closest political ally, confirmed that McGuinness had died. Speaking on Tuesday morning, Adams said: “Throughout his life, Martin showed great determination, dignity and humility and it was no different during his short illness. “He was a passionate republican who worked tirelessly for peace and reconciliation and for the reunification of his country.”

Telegraph
Martin McGuinness, the former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland and one-time Provisional IRA commander, has died aged 66 following a serious illness. His death after being admitted to hospital brings to a close one of the most paradoxical of political careers. Mr McGuinness was the ruthless paramilitary leader who helped pave the way for peace in the province and the hard-line Republican who was happy to shake the Queen’s hand and share a joke with her. It is understood that he suffered from a rare condition that attacks the heart and other vital organs. Announcing the death of McGuinness on Tuesday morning, Sinn Fein said in a statement: “It is with deep regret and sadness that we have learnt of the death of our friend and comrade Martin McGuinness who passed away in Derry during the night. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”

Mail
Former IRA commander and deputy first minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness has died. It is believed that the veteran politician, 66, passed away from a rare heart condition in Derry, Northern Ireland, last night. After rising through the ranks of the IRA during the Troubles in the early 1970s, McGuinness later turned peacekeeper and played an important role in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. He became deputy first minister of Northern Ireland in 2007, but stepped down in January at the DUP’s handling of the ‘cash for ash’ energy scandal, triggering a snap election.  McGuinness’ friend and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has paid tribute to him, tweeting a message in Irish, which said ‘among heroes of Gael he had a faithful soul.’

Scotland

Guardian
A far-right millionaire with Ulster loyalist connections plans to use his international social media network, which backed Donald Trump, to support Scottish independence. Jim Dowson, a former financial backer of the British National party and former member of Britain First, confirmed on Monday that he will be deploying his “Patriotic News Agency” and other networks with their bases in Hungary and Serbia to promote Scottish separatism.  Dowson’s social media group pumped out pro-Trump “news” during the latter stages of the US presidential campaign, including several conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton. The ex-Orange Order member, who along with his family is based in Northern Ireland but spends considerable time running the rightwing agency in eastern Europe, claims his networks have a global reach of 50 million online viewers, 17 million of whom live in Britain.

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