Customs union

THERESA May will face a showdown with senior Brexit-supporting ministers in a meeting this week, after it emerged that the Prime Minister is prepared to surrender her plans to leave the customs union after Brexit due to the possibility of a series of Parliamentary defeats over the issue.
Ministers including David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson will call for the Prime Minister to abandon her preferred option for a customs deal at a meeting of the Government’s Brexit sub-committee, which is due to take place on Wednesday. They believe a customs partnership with the EU is untenable as it will encourage Brussels to push for Britain to remain in the customs union post-Brexit. The UK will not be able to strike its own free-trade deals with countries around the world if it remains a member of the customs union, which is a point of contention for many Government Ministers.

Theresa May will face a Cabinet split over a customs deal with the EU when she meets senior ministers on Tuesday ahead of a key Commons vote next month that could determine her future as leader.
Eurosceptic Cabinet ministers including David Davis, Liam Fox, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson are expected to warn the Prime Minister that she must abandon plans for a customs partnership amid fears it could pave the way for a significant climbdown over Brexit. However Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, and other leading pro-European Cabinet ministers will argue that it is “premature” to abandon any of the Government’s proposals for a customs deal with the EU.

Theresa May is facing calls to stake her political future on winning a crunch customs union vote as Brexiteers fear she is preparing to fudge her red line.
Remain Tory MPs have signed up to an opposition amendment to the Trade Bill that would mandate the Government to create a customs union after Brexit. Defeat would be a heavy blow to the Prime Minister’s authority. Brexiteers want her to raise the stakes to a vote of confidence to deter Tory rebels from risking a collapse of the Government. A symbolic vote on the issue on Thursday could give a clue to the mood of MPs ahead of the amendment vote expected next month. The row grew today as Mrs May faced a showdown with senior Cabinet ministers over a proposal Brexiteers see as a watering down of the pledge to leave the EU Customs Union after Britain leaves the EU.

THERESA May’s allies are urging her to confront pro-EU Brexit rebels with a Commons vote – as it emerges she will duck another showdown with them this week.
The PM will tell ministers to stay away from a backbench debate on Thursday when rebel Tory MPs will join forces with Labour, The Sun has learned. It is one of a series of upcoming showdowns with the government in a bid to ensure Britain stays in a customs union with the EU. But delaying a confrontation with the 20-strong contingent of Tory rebels is only emboldening Brussels negotiators to frustrate Mrs May, her allies have warned her. No10 is also holding back two Brexit bills, on customs and trade, for fear of defeats on the same issue.

BBC News
The government has restated its commitment to leaving the EU’s custom union – ahead of a symbolic vote on the issue this week.
Last Wednesday, the government suffered defeat on the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords on the issue of staying in a UK-EU customs union after Brexit. And MPs will get their own chance to debate the issue on Thursday. But a senior Downing Street source told the BBC the government’s position would not change. “We will not be staying in the customs union or joining a customs union,” the source said. BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said Downing Street’s move was an attempt to reassure Brexiteers worried about a U-turn following the Lords defeat and pressure from the EU.

Ken Clarke has urged Tory MPs to ignore an extraordinary warning that defeat on the customs union would topple  Theresa May and vote for the “national interest” regardless.
 No 10 has piled pressure on potential Conservative rebels by suggesting next month’s showdown will be a “confidence vote”, the BBC reported – meaning defeat would bring down the government. Such a threat would hugely magnify the importance of the vote – on whether the UK remains in a customs union with the EU after Brexit – and make it harder for Tory MPs to defy the prime minister. But Mr Clarke accused No 10 of plunging into a “panic of the day”, after Brexiteer MPs demanded that Ms May hold the line, urging fellow pro-EU Tories not to be deflected by the hardline tactics. “In the end, parliament has to decide what is in the national interest,” the former chancellor said.

The EU has admitted that they are “pleased” that Theresa May is leading the Brexit negotiations for Britain instead of Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Mogg had said that the government should “call their bluff” if Eurocrats tried to put up tariffs after Brexit. Irish Commissioner Phil Hogan told a press conference yesterday: “That’s why we’re very pleased in the European Union that we’re dealing with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, not with Mr. Rees-Mogg.” Downing Street ought to send Mogg into battle in Brussels to get tough given the EU’s hardline, slow-motion approach to proceedings thus far!

European Union negotiators have admitted that their controversial “backstop” plan to prevent a hard border in Ireland after Brexit will not work and could undermine the single market. In a confidential diplomatic note seen by The Times, the European Commission and other EU negotiators expressed fears that because the plan covers only customs checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain, the province could still become a lucrative loophole in the single market. This could allow Northern Ireland to become a hub for businesses wanting to bypass EU rules, with no border checks to stop them exporting goods and services to the Continent. “A solution for the Irish border does not solve problems related to necessary alignment.

Britain is set to sign a Brexit deal with Michigan to develop new technology including driverless cars, it has been revealed. The UK is set to sign a memorandum of understanding to collaborate with the US state – which is home to Detroit, the centre of the country’s car industry. Michigan State Governor Rick Snyder said the world is on the brink of a revolution in the car industry thanks to driverless vehicles. And he said the deal will allow the UK and Michigan to share and hone technology so they can be at the forefront of the transformation. The deal is a boost for Theresa May’s Government which has said it wants to use Brexit to champion new free trade deals with countries around the world.


Amber Rudd has announced British citizenship fees and language tests will be waived for the Windrush generation  amid fresh calls for her resignation over the scandal.
Addressing the House of Commons, the Home Secretary also vowed to pay compensation and suggested the Government could cover the costs of helping people return to the UK from abroad if they choose to do so. But she faced a number of calls to step down over the treatment of Windrush migrants, some of whom have been threatened with deportation after they were unable to prove their right to stay in the UK.

Amber Rudd has vowed to change the culture of the Home Office amid concerns that the Windrush immigration scandal could fuel an exodus of ethnic minority support for the Tories.
The home secretary unveiled an emergency package of measures designed to end the crisis yesterday. Every citizen from the Commonwealth who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1988 will be offered citizenship or settled status, with officials told to take a generous approach to applications. Ms Rudd admitted that the treatment of immigration cases needed to change, telling MPs that the controversy had shown “we need to give a human face to how we work and exercise greater discretion when it is justified”.

The government has announced it will effectively fast track citizenship for people affected by the Windrush  scandal, even if they lack a full set of documents to prove their status.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said anyone who has suffered from the scandal will be able to apply without facing the usual fees and tests, and will be treated more leniently if they lack needed documentation. She also confirmed that a new scheme will be established to pay compensation to those who have suffered financial loss from the debacle. Ms Rudd emphasised her commitment to tackling illegal immigration, but admitted the government’s approach has had an “unintended and sometimes devastating” impact on people from the Windrush generation who are here legally but have struggled to get documentation to prove their status.

A leaked letter has revealed ministers were aware of risk to the Windrush generation when immigration reforms were made law. 
The letter, written in May 2016 by a Home Office Minister, will refuel a row about whether Home Secretary Amber Rudd should resign. It proves ministers were aware members of the Windrush generation were facing deportation years ago.   The Government has insisted members of the Windrush should never have been targeted by a wider crackdown aimed at making Britain a ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants.  Defending Ms Rudd, and Theresa May who implemented reforms as Home Secretary, ministers have blamed an official-level failure to properly implement policy.  

The home secretary has pledged that the Windrush generation will be granted British citizenship as the government attempted to draw a line under the scandal by describing her apology as “just the first step”.
Amber Rudd told the Commons she recognised the “harrowing” experiences of the Caribbean immigrants who helped rebuild postwar Britain and that she was determined to right the wrongs that had taken place. The Home Office will now waive citizenship fees for the Windrush generation and their families and any charges for returning to the UK for those who had retired to their countries of origin after making their lives here. It will also scrap language and British knowledge tests and bring in speedy financial compensation for those that had suffered loss, although there has been little detail so far.

Sky News
Windrush families who have “suffered loss” because of failures over their immigration status will receive compensation, it has been announced.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd promised to set up the reparation scheme “with urgency”. This measure and others were revealed after Ms Rudd faced calls to resign over her handling of the scandal. She declared that “anyone from the Windrush who wants to become a British citizen will now be able to do so”. People who “made their lives here” but have since “retired to their country of origin” will be allowed to return to the UK. Ms Rudd promised to waive “any fees associated with this process” and work with foreign embassies.


BBC News
Jeremy Corbyn is set for a crunch meeting with Jewish leaders to discuss what steps he has taken to address anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
The Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies of British Jews say the Labour leader has been slow to act on the recommendations of a 2016 report. They want disciplinary cases speeded up and elected officials thrown out if they share a platform with offenders. Labour says there must be absolute “zero tolerance” of anti-Semitism. Last month, Mr Corbyn said he was sorry for the pain caused by “pockets of anti-Semitism” in the party and he wanted to “rebuild” confidence among Jewish groups.

A roundtable meeting between Jeremy Corbyn and a range of Jewish groups to discuss antisemitism in Labour and other issues has been postponed, reportedly because of concerns about the planned participation of one group.
The Labour leader will still hold a planned meeting on Tuesday with the two largest organisations, the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), as part of efforts to tackle antisemitism. However, a larger roundtable involving more groups, scheduled for Wednesday, has been postponed, after the BoD and JLC announced they would not be participating. It is understood that one of the reasons was disquiet within the BoD and JLC that among the groups invited to Wednesday’s event was Jewish Voice for Labour, which has downplayed the issue of antisemitism in the party. Last month it organised a counter-demonstration to the “enough is enough” protest against antisemitism in  Labour outside parliament. The groups also felt the purpose of the second event was vague, and would not add anything to the direct talks the day before.

Doubts were cast over the sincerity of Labour’s vow to tackle antisemitism last night after it emerged that only one of 75 complaints from a leading campaign group has resulted in an expulsion from the party.
Labour Against Antisemitism (Laas) expressed concern after the party said that it had decided not to suspend or expel 37 activists reported by Laas this year. A single Labour member reported by Laas has been expelled and two have been suspended, the group said. Of the other complaints, the party could not identify all those activists reported by Laas as present members and said that some had been dealt with historically.

ITV News
Jeremy Corbyn will meet Jewish leaders for talks after weeks of turmoil over his handling of anti-Semitism in the Labour party.
The 5pm showdown comes after protests, criticism from Labour MPs and international condemnation over the way the Opposition leader has dealt with hostility to Jews. Organisations representing Jewish communities will call on Mr Corbyn to use his “personal authority” to drive through changes to wipe out the problem in the party. The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) said there must be “action not words” when they accepted his invitation to meet. Labour Jewish MPs spoke out about anti-Semitism in the party during a debate in Parliament and warned “enough is enough”. London Mayor Sadiq Khan admitted Jewish people who would like to vote Labour are “finding it very difficult” because of the party’s handling of the issue. Prime Minister Theresa May accused Mr Corbyn of allowing anti-Semitism to “run rife” in his party.

A JEWISH Labour MP has revealed she is receiving more anti-Semitic abuse than ever before.
Margaret Hodge blamed social media for driving the increase. She admitted: “I’ve never known it like this.” The MP for Barking said when the far-Right British National Party challenged her for her London seat in 2010 she got “a bit” of anti-Semitic abuse. But she added: “I’m getting more now… and I think the reason for that is social media. “It’s an easy way to get it out.” She also said she used to feel the Labour Party was her “natural home as a refugee, an immigrant, a Jew” because of its anti-racist and tolerant outlook.


NHS England faces a legal challenge to its plans to overhaul how the health service operates, which critics say are unlawful and could lead to patients being denied treatment.
Campaigners on Tuesday will try to derail plans to introduce of “ accountable care organisations” (ACOs), which they say could force doctors to decide what care a patient needs based on how much money is available rather than how sick someone is. If the changes go through then individual hospital trusts and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will no longer each receive an annual budget of their own. Instead NHS bosses would give a joint budget to pay for healthcare in whole areas of England to an ACO that would be made up of all the acute, mental health and other providers of NHS care locally. A judicial review has been secured by the campaign group 999 Call for the NHS. The group says the new contracts for the first wave of ACOs are unlawful under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and could threaten patient safety by forcing hospitals and doctors to ration patients’ access to treatment.

Sky News
Just before Easter, Theresa May announced she had finally accepted the case for a longer-term, and bigger financial commitment to the NHS.
But how much to pay, and how to find the money is not yet decided. The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has appealed to his colleagues for ideas, promising in a letter to all Tory MPs that solutions for the NHS and proposals on social care will be settled by the summer. But a cross-party group of MPs including former ministers, is again urging the government to convert National Insurance into a specific tax for the NHS. That proposal is part of a wider set of principles upon which they would base a commission to look at the health service’s long-term pressures, that is being published today.

House prices

When is the right time to buy a house? It is question that first-time buyers have faced for many years. Should you wait and build your deposit further, or is it better to get on the ladder as soon as possible?
Rising house prices in recent years generally meant the sooner a property was purchased the cheaper it would be. However, that tide may be turning as house prices in London have fallen for the first time in almost a decade. Statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the average property in the capital is worth almost £5,000 less than year ago, the first annual fall since September 2009.

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