International trade

Telegraph
Britain will become a “beacon of global free trade” and create nearly 400,000 new jobs if it quits the customs union as part of the Brexit negotiations, it has been suggested. An analysis by Change Britain, a group with the backing of Michael Gove, said that leaving the European Union’s customs union and striking trade agreements with just eight foreign countries will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in manufacturing and service industries. The customs union allows the free trade of goods between members, but members also have to apply the same tariffs to goods imported from outside the union. Using European Commission figures on potential trade deals with countries such as India, China, Japan and Canada, the Change Britain analysis found Britain would get nearly £20 billion from extra exports and create 387,580 jobs.

Brexit

Times
Leading Brexit supporters begin a campaign today for Britain to leave the European customs union, saying the move would create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Prominent Leave campaigners believe that Theresa May is being lobbied by cabinet ministers and officials to stay inside the union, which allows goods to move freely around the EU without customs checks. Campaigners for a hard Brexit have been unnerved by hints from Mrs May and Liam Fox, the trade secretary, that Britain may stay part of the union. This could stop Britain striking its own free trade deals with non-EU countries.

Mail
Britain will create almost 400,000 jobs if it leaves the EU’s customs union, pro-Brexit campaigners claimed last night. The intervention by Michael Gove and other Leave figures heaps more pressure on the Prime Minister to make a clean break with the EU. Theresa May and senior ministers have hinted that some sectors of the British economy could look to stay in the customs union once the UK leaves. But the pro-Brexit Change Britain group said this would prevent the country from making its own free trade agreements with non-EU nations. In a report published today, based on EU figures, it claimed leaving the customs union would allow the creation of around 390,000 jobs across the country.

Migrants’ benefits

Sun
THERESA May is considering resurrecting plans to curb benefits for EU migrants after Brexit. Government sources are looking again at the plans, originally proposed by David Cameron in the 2015 election. Officials are considering Britain’s immigration policy post-Brexit, and how to gain control of our borders after the referendum result. Reports today have suggested that newly arrived immigrants from the EU could be stopped from claiming tax credits and other in-work benefits when they get here. The idea was originally proposed by former PM Mr Cameron – a so-called “emergency brake” – but he was not able to secure the deal with the rest of the EU during his negotiations last year. The deal became void after Britain voted to leave the EU. Mrs May has said that she will trigger Article 50 by the end of March, which will kick off negotiations on our departure from the EU. It is likely that migration will form a key part of the talks – ending freedom of movement was a key factor for the Leave campaign in the referendum.

Express
THERESA May is examining plans for a sweeping crackdown on benefit claims by EU migrants in a fresh attempt to cut the numbers coming to Britain. The Prime Minister has asked officials to look again at possible curbs to prevent new arrivals receiving tax credits and other in-work state support. Her move would revive a proposal put forward by former premier David Cameron in his botched effort to negotiate a new EU deal. Downing Street aides insist the curbs are likely to be just one element of a package of measures to drastically tighten border controls. A spokesman said: “We have been clear that the UK should make its own decisions about migration once it leaves the EU.

Independent
Theresa May is planning to stop EU migrants from claiming benefits as part of Brexit negotiations, it has been reported. Government sources say senior figures are drawing up plans to deny newly arrived migrants in-work benefits such as tax credits,
The Times reports. If enacted, the move would represent a resurrection of a pledge in the Conservative manifesto under then-Prime Minister David Cameron. During negotiations with the EU last year prior to the referendum, he secured a temporary compromise to block the benefits. However, it elapsed when the UK voted to Leave. Ms May has announced her intention to trigger Article 50 by the end of March, thereby formally beginning the process of withdrawing from the EU. Triggering the notice opens a two year window in which the Government can conduct negotiations with the other member states on how it will leave.

Sun
THERESA May is coming under pressure from some of her MPs to threaten to abolish or cut the House of Lords if they try to get in the way of Brexit. Some Tories want the PM to be ready to threaten them with cuts in their numbers or powers if they stand in the way of Britain’s exit from the EU. Brexiteers are concerned that the House of Lords – which features more Liberal Democrats and Labour peers in total than Tory ones – could try to delay or obstruct the Brexit process. Two cabinet ministers told the Mail that the Government should be prepared to respond with force to ensure the “will of the British people is respected”. One said that if they did try and delay the process, the case for reform would be put up for debate again.

Express
BRITAIN’S historic vote to leave the European Union has similarities to the rise of Hitler, Paddy Ashdown has ludicrously claimed. The peer and former Liberal Dem leader branded Brexiteers as “dispossessed and voiceless” as he compared the rise of Hitler in Nazi Germany in the 1930s to the referendum result. He made the outrageous claims during an interview on the BBC’s Pienaar’s Politics show. Speaking alongside Vote Leave and key Brexit campaigner Iain Duncan Smith, Lord Ashdown said: “I’m deep into the 1930s and boy does this age remind me of the 1930s. “All the things are there, the revolt against the establishment, the retreat from multilateralism to unilateralism. “The beginning of protectionism, with those who shout loudest getting heard and the small voice of reason doesn’t.”

Labour Party

Guardian
Labour may get as little as 20% of the vote at the next general election and win fewer than 150 seats, according to an analysis of the challenges the party faces. Buffeted by difficulties including plotting a course on Brexit and a continued lack of support in Scotland, as well as Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopularity, Labour has virtually no chance of winning outright in the next election, the Fabian Society report concludes. The thinktank argues Labour should seek ways to win power with the support of parties such as the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National party, arguing this is the only feasible route into government for now. Based on analysis of existing poll data and historical trends, the study predicts that the next election, whether held imminently or in 2020, is very likely to see Labour win fewer than 200 seats for the first time since 1935, possibly falling to about 140.

Independent
Labour is on course to retain as few as 150 MPs at the next general election as it sheds voters to all other parties, a stark new report warns. Support for Jeremy Corbyn’s party could plunge as low as 20 per cent at the election in 2020 based on its current poll ratings, the Fabian Society has calculated. Such a performance – which would be comfortably the worst in Labour’s history – would see it retreat into the big cities and its old industrial heartlands, losing scores of Westminster seats. A Commons majority is “currently unthinkable” – even with a miraculous recovery over the next three years – because of Labour’s near-wipeout in Scotland in 2015.

Royal Navy

Telegraph
This year will be the start of a “new era of maritime power” for Britain, as the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier leaves its shipyard and begins sea trials, the Defence Secretary has said. The 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth will begin trials in the North Sea in March, before moving to its new home in Portsmouth later in the year. Its sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, will enter the water for the first time in the summer in Rosyth as work on her continues. The Ministry of Defence has declared 2017 the year of the Navy after a series of disclosures last year about unreliable warships, cuts and undermanning. Sir Michael Fallon said: “2017 is the start of a new era of maritime power, projecting Britain’s influence globally and delivering security at home.”

Rail fares

Times
Rail commuters are paying up to six times as much as their counterparts in Europe after the latest round of inflation-busting fare increases. Regular passengers are spending as much as 14 per cent of their salary travelling by train to work every day, research being published today by a union-backed campaign shows. By comparison, the daily commute in countries such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain costs only 2 to 4 per cent of workers’ salaries, it is claimed. A separate study reveals that commuters returning to work today could pay 27p a minute to travel by train — as much as a premium-rate phone call — after a 56 per cent increase in prices over the past decade.

Foreign aid

Mail
Standing in line, Pakistani families wait at a cashpoint used to withdraw money on cards loaded with funds from British taxpayers. More than £1billion of our foreign aid budget has been given away in cash over the past five years, it can be revealed today. Despite warnings of fraud, officials have quietly quadrupled expenditure on cash and debit cards that recipients can spend at will. The budget has soared from £53million in 2005 to an annual average of £219million in the period 2011-15. MPs last night compared the foreign cash handouts to ‘exporting the dole’. As much as £300million is being lavished on a scheme in Pakistan that has been dogged by claims of corruption.

Independent
Officials have defended British taxpayer-funded cash handouts to people in Pakistan as a senior Tory MP called for a review of the programme which he compared to “exporting the dole”. The Department for International Development (DfID) said the programme was helping the poorest families in Pakistan and was an efficient and effective way to make sure they had the support they need. But MP Nigel Evans, a former Commons deputy speaker and member of the International Development Select Committee warned that cash transfers were “clearly open to fraud”. The UK aid budget helps fund the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), which offers cash amounting to just over £10 a month to some of the poorest families in a country where 60 million people live on less than £1 a day.

NHS

Sun
A SEVEN-day NHS is “unrealistic” and NHS professionals are already working at their limits, a top doctor has warned today. The Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners says proposals could have a serious impact on the care given on weekdays. Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said that GP services were “already spread far too thin” and that patients can always see a GP urgently through current out of hours services. She told Sky News today: “The whole system is stretched… you can’t just keep opening more and more hours. 
We have to draw the line somewhere,” she added, and expressed concern at filling the extra 5,000 GP roles. The Government promised at the 2015 election to make some NHS services available 7 days per week, and have pledged to improve access to doctors at evenings and weekends. But Ms Stokes-Lampard said that it was “unrealistic in the current climate. We haven’t got the people, we haven’t got the resources.”

ITV News
GP surgeries should be placed in A&E hospital departments to see patients who turn up to hospital inappropriately, according to a poll of doctors. More than half (61%) of GPs believe it is necessary to relieve pressure on emergency departments. Key targets for waiting times are being missed at A&E departments across England and there are widespread concerns that patients turn to A&E rather than attempting to see a GP first. The poll of more than 500 doctors for the Press Association, carried out by healthcare intelligence firm Wilmington Healthcare, found that 27% of doctors believed up to a third of people go to A&E when they should be seen by a GP or nurse. Some 13% said more than half of patients should be redirected to GP services on arrival at A&E.

BBC

Breitbart
The BBC has been accused of a “conflict of interest”, as it emerged that the corporation has taken more than £300,000 in funding from the European Union since the vote for Brexit. Critics say the payment is bound to lead to bias in the state media’s reporting, something which the corporation has previously been accused of. In March 2016
Breitbart London reported on an uncritical documentary about President Obama made by the BBC using EU taxpayer funds. The BBC is already guaranteed a handout of £3.7 billion from the public purse each year, yet it has emerged that the corporation is set to receive €352,750 for its part in the EU Commission’s Multidrone project. The project is billed on the Commission website as a collaboration which “aims to develop an innovative, intelligent, multi-drone platform for media production”.

North Korea

Star
NORTH Korea is on the verge on launching Kim Jong-un’s first ever nuclear missile, as experts admitted the world has underestimated the power of the secretive regime. Kim celebrated the New Year by announcing North Korea would soon have a fully armed and operational nuclear ICBM. North Korea’s scientists spent 2016 testing rocket engines, heat shields and guidance systems as they developed the technology of a nuke capable of crossing the Pacific Ocean. US-based analysts now admit 2017 is going to be the year Kim launches his nuclear missile – and warned the world has not been taking the North Korea’s missile development seriously. Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, said North Korea has made some “astounding” developments in their missile programme.

Volcano

Star
THREE million people in Europe are at risk of a supervolcano on the brink of erupting at any moment, scientists have warned. The Campi Flegrei volcano’s unpredictable movement will make it difficult for authorities to protect the population of nearby Naples. Vast volumes of gas are bubbling below the surface at a speed which could spark an explosion, a shock report from Nature Communications revealed last month. The volcano is said to be reaching levels designated by “critical degassing pressure”. The eight scientists wrote: “We propose that magma could be approaching the CDP at Campi Flegrei, a volcano in the metropolitan area of Naples, one of the most densely inhabited areas in the world, and where accelerating deformation and heating are currently being observed. “It is not clear whether this unrest will culminate in an eruption and if it does over what timescale this will occur.” Signs of the massive volcano awakening have been dominant in the recent months.

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