Brexit

Express
BRITAIN will get billions of pounds cash back from the EU rather than paying to leave under plans being considered by Cabinet ministers. Government insiders say officials have been ordered to draw up a register of the UK’s estimated share of assets in Brussels for use in the Brexit negotiations. The move is designed as a riposte to demands from senior Eurocrats for the UK to make a divorce payment of up to £50billion on quitting the bloc. And it follows a warning from EU Council President Donald Tusk last week that talks on a future trade deal cannot begin until “sufficient progress” has been made on the terms of Britain’s exit. A Government source yesterday confirmed that ministers were prepared to hit back with a counter demand if EU negotiators present a swingeing divorce bill.

Westmonster
Under plans being considered by Ministers, the EU could end up owing Britain billions! According to The Telegraph, the UK could be entitled to £9 billion from the European Investment Bank as well as a further £14 billion in property and other assets we’ve helped pay for over the years. A government source said: “This is being presented in a binary way as a divorce bill, in which we owe them. It’s not like that. It’s more like leaving a gym or a club. You don’t continue to pay for other people to use the facilities after you leave”. The Lords’ Committee concluded that the Government doesn’t legally have to pay Brussels anything, The EU may come to regret coming out with the ridiculous £50 billion figure so early!

Guardian
Theresa May’s claim that “no deal is better than a bad deal” has been slammed as unsubstantiated by a parliamentary committee, but its pro-Brexit MPs have refused to back the findings. The chair, Hilary Benn, called on the government to urgently prepare for the “worst-case” scenario of crashing out of the EU without a trade deal, and asked for an impact assessment of what the economic fallout would be. But he also had to contend with the fact that his House of Commons committee on exiting the EU was divided over its third report, with pro-Brexit members complaining of the negative tone, walking out and ultimately refusing to back the conclusions. Dominic Raab, a Conservative MP who campaigned to leave the EU, described the report as “rushed, skewed and partisan”, claiming it was regrettable that it had divided the group. “

Mail
EU citizens who lived in the UK years ago should be allowed to return after Brexit and given access to the benefits system, Brussels will demand. In a move that will frustrate Downing Street’s bid to reduce migrant numbers, officials will say EU migrants who potentially left decades earlier could retain the right to set up home in Britain. Ministers have privately conceded that the 3million EU citizens currently in the UK may be offered concessions in a bid to protect the fate of British expats living elsewhere in Europe. In an attempt to capitalise on the situation, Brussels negotiators will demand that Britain’s welfare system should remain open to tens of thousands of additional EU citizens.

ITV News
Theresa May’s claim that when it comes to Brexit negotiations “no deal is better than a bad deal” has been slammed in a cross-party parliamentary committee report looking at the potential effects of Britain leaving the EU. According to the report – produced by members of The House of Commons Exiting The EU committee – the Prime Minister’s claims are “unsubstantiated” and it is “very important that both the UK and the EU avoid reaching the end of the two-year negotiating period without an agreement”. The report, released on Tuesday, also states: “Without an economic assessment of ‘no deal’ having been done and without evidence that steps are being taken to mitigate what would be the damaging effect of such an outcome, the Government’s assertion that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, is unsubstantiated.”

Order-Order
The Spanish have long argued – years before the referendum – that Gibraltar existing as a British enclave means the “disruption of national unity and territorial integrity” of Spain, and that it hurts the Spanish economy. There is just one question Theresa May and Boris Johnson need ask their Spanish counterparts: what about Ceuta? Ceuta (and another city, Melilla) are two low tax Spanish enclaves on the northern coast of Morocco. They are the EU’s only land border with Africa. Morocco want them back, but the two enclaves are autonomous, have their own governments, and return deputies and senators to the Spanish parliament in Madrid. Well, Spain, do Ceuta and Melilla disrupt the economy, national unity and territorial integrity of Morocco? 

NHS

Mail
The professionally produced video, posted on YouTube, looks and sounds like the sort of human resources promo that Ricky Gervais’s David Brent would make. ‘Morning all, you’ve died and gone to heaven, it turns out I’m president number 67.’ So begins the excruciatingly embarrassing rap song, featuring a middle-aged accountant driving a BMW and wearing a pair of trendy glasses. In fact, the truth is even more tragic. The wannabe rapper is Mark Orchard, director of finance at Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, who had the video shot to celebrate his appointment as this year’s president of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) — president number 67, as it happens.

General Election

Express
THERESA May could win a 100-seat Commons majority in a snap election this year, an influential polling expert said today. Robert Hayward, a former Tory MP turned elections analyst, said Labour support was crumbling all over Britain under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. He also forecast that Labour will suffer its worst national polling figures since the mid-1980s in local council elections next month. Mr Corbyn’s party was on course to lose more than 125 council seats across England, Wales and Scotland in the poll on May 4. It was even on course to lose control of Glasgow council, one of the party’s iconic citadels. In contrast, the Tories can expect to win more than 100 seats in what is expected to be their best local election vote while in government since 1989.

Sky News
Theresa May would be on course for a 100-seat majority if she called a snap general election this year, according to an influential pollster. Elections analyst Robert Hayward told Sky News the Tories would surge to victory if Mrs May went to the country in the coming months, fresh from triggering Article 50. The party could lose up to 15 seats to the Liberal Democrats, his projections suggest, but make major gains from Labour and could take a handful of seats from the Scottish Nationalists.

BBC

Mail
BBC presenter Nick Robinson has said the organisation has no duty to ‘satisfy’ Remainers and Leavers as the referendum is now over. The presenter of Radio 4’s Today programme said critics should ‘leave it out’ and ‘remain calm’ because the corporation is no longer obliged to balance the two sides of the argument. Mr Robinson, who was the BBC’s political editor for more than a decade, said the broadcaster instead has a duty to its viewers to explain, analyse and scrutinise the ‘most significant policy decisions to be taken in decades’.

Telegraph
The BBC no longer has a duty to provide balanced coverage of Brexit, according to Nick Robinson, presenter of the Today programme. Those who accuse the corporation of bias “find it hard to accept that on the BBC they will often hear people they disagree with saying things they don’t like”, Robinson said. That group includes more than 70 MPs who wrote to Lord Hall, the BBC director-general, complaining about the “pessimistic” tone of Brexit coverage. Lord Hall replied to the MPs insisting that “we go to great lengths to ensure that we balance our coverage and address all issues from a wide range of perspectives”. However, writing a column in Radio Times – which begins: “Welcome to another week of moaning about the BBC” – Robinson said he was tired of Leavers and Remainers monitoring the corporation’s output with “stopwatches and calculators”.

Gibraltar

Guardian
Theresa May and Boris Johnson moved to cool tensions with the European Union over Gibraltar on Monday, dismissing the notion of military escalation and hinting that a conciliatory approach would be matched by British goodwill on security issues. As the Spanish foreign minister suggested that British alarm over Gibraltar showed that “someone in the UK is losing their cool”, May sought to move on from the aggressive rhetoric that followed the publication of the EU council’s draft guidelines, including former Conservative leader Michael Howard’s comparisons with the Falklands War, by describing her approach as “jaw-jaw”.

Express
BRUSSELS today insisted that Spain has its “full support” over its shameless attempt to use the people of Gibraltar as a bargaining chip in the upcoming Brexit negotiations. The EU broke its silence this morning as the diplomatic crisis between Madrid, London and Brussels over the future of the Rock deepens.  In a statement EU Commission chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas said eurocrats were “100 per cent behind” Spain over the inclusion of Gibraltar’s future in the bloc’s negotiating guidelines. And in a move likely to inflame tensions with Westminster he refused to answer questions on whether or not Brussels now officially recognises the Rock as a disputed territory.

Telegraph
Gibraltar has accused the European Union of behaving like a “cuckolded husband who is taking it out on the children” by appearing to hand Spain a veto over “the Rock’s”  future in Brexit negotiations. Fabian Picardo,  the chief minister, made the comments after Spain accused Britain of “losing its temper” over Gibraltar. It came as talk of a “war” between Britain and Spain over the row was dismissed as “absurd”.  Alfonso Dastis, Spain’s foreign minister,  said he was “surprised” by Britain’s response after the EU’s draft Brexit negotiating guidelines appeared to hand Spain an effective veto over whether an eventual deal will apply to Gibraltar.

Breitbart
The Gibraltar government have restated their position that they are not to be a bargaining chip in Britain’s Brexit negotiations, and are certain they wish to remain part of the Kingdom, as the row over Spain’s posturing over the rock continues to ruffle feathers. Speaking out on Spain’s move to seize Gibraltar as leverage for the European Union’s Brexit negotiations with the United Kingdom as it moves to withdraw from the bloc, chief minister of the British Overseas Territory Fabian Picardo made his views clear in the strongest terms in an interview with Reuters. Lashing out at recently re-selected EU president Donald Tusk who is overseeing the Brexit negotiations, Mr. Picardo said: “Mr Tusk, who has been given to using the analogies of the divorce and divorce petition, is behaving like a cuckolded husband who is taking it out on the children.”

Foreign aid

Times
Unethical behaviour is “absolutely embedded” in the culture of foreign aid contractors employed by the government, according to MPs. Profiteering, overcharging and duplicity have been uncovered at businesses that receive millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money to implement aid projects overseas, it is claimed in a report published today. Whistleblowers agreed to give evidence in return for retaining their anonymity. MPs found that:  The rapid growth in the Department for International Development (Dfid) aid budget has made contracts too big to lose, encouraging sharp practice by those making bids; Contractors are charging the department more than twice the going market rate for staffing costs.

BBC News
Ministers must do more to tackle the “appalling conduct” of some private contractors used to deliver foreign aid projects, a committee of MPs has said. There were “fundamental flaws” in the working practices of some of the groups that handle tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, said the MPs. The International Development Committee also criticised a “complete lack of enforcement” of procurement rules. The government said it was already undertaking a “root and branch” review. International Development Secretary Priti Patel has warned suppliers against “excessive profiteering or unethical practices”.

Rail strike

Mail
Commuters have vented their anger after deal to end a long-running dispute with Southern Rail has been rejected by a rail union. Thousands of people faced delays earlier this year after Aslef union members staged several strikes in January. The union had failed to come to a resolution following a year-long battle with the train operator over staffing levels and the expansion of driver-only operation (DOO). Southern Rail wants guards to become on-board supervisors, leaving drivers with the responsibility of opening and closing carriage doors. But rail unions claim DOO is not safe and have held 30 separate strike days in the past year.  Passengers have now reacted with anger to the announcement that Aslef members had rejected the deal with 372 members voting against it (51.8 per cent) and 346 (48.2 per cent) approving it.

Times
Commuters on Southern rail services could face more misery after members of the Aslef union narrowly rejected a deal aimed at ending the long-running dispute about driver-only trains. It is the second time the drivers have gone against a recommendation from their leaders, and is a blow to hopes of a breakthrough in the row. The vote was 48.2 per cent in favour of the proposed agreement, with 51.8 per cent against, on a turnout of 75 per cent. Some 346 people voted to support the deal and 372 opposed it, meaning that the motion would have been carried if only 14 people had voted the other way.

Morning Star
TRAIN drivers on Britain’s most troubled railway rejected a second proposed compromise agreement with bosses yesterday. Aslef members voted by a narrow margin of 51.8 per cent against the deal, which would have ended the union’s long-running dispute with Southern over its introduction of driver-only operated (DOO) trains. Turnout in the ballot was 75.4 per cent. The proposal brought forward a CCTV upgrade and shortened the list of reasons why a train could run without a second member of staff. But it still transferred all operational duties to drivers. Southern’s expansion of DOO has brought both drivers and conductors out on strike. Bosses say trains will continue to be staffed by conductors, though they will be rebranded “onboard supervisors.” Transport unions, however, have raised safety concerns and fear the change will lead to on-board staff eventually being stripped out altogether.

Labour Party

Guardian
Tony Blair has accused Labour of failing the British people by not being an effective opposition as he slammed the “ultra-left” takeover of the party. “Ask yourself one simple question,” he said. “In the prime minister’s office, in Tory high command, how much of their time do they spend worrying about the prospect of a Labour victory at the present time? I would guess zero. “We’ve got to make them wake up every morning and fear us.” The former leader’s comments were made in an interview with the Labour MPs Ruth Smeeth and Wes Streeting for Progress magazine. Blair said that the current incarnation of the party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was putting principle before power and that Labour has only won “when it has been at the cutting edge of modernity”. A lurch to the left between 1979 and 1983 had “cratered the Labour party”, the former prime minister said.

Independent
Support for the Labour Party is at its lowest level since the 2015 election, according to a new ICM poll for the Guardian. The latest figures put Labour at 25 per cent, the lowest it has been in this particular, regularly repeated poll at any point since Ed Miliband lost the 2015 election. Labour has fared worse than the 25 per cent figure in other polls by other polling companies, and the 18 per cent deficit to the Tories on 43 per cent has been higher too, but strictly comparing this poll to previous results, Labour has not fared so badly since 1983. The poll put the Conservatives on 43 per cent, 2 per cent down since two weeks ago. Labour are down 1 point to 25 per cent, Ukip are up one to 11%, the Liberal Democrats are up two to 11 per cent, and the Greens on four per cent have recorded no change.

Huffington Post
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party is on course to lose 125 seats in the local council elections in May, a new forecast has claimed. Pollster Robert Hayward said that Labour was facing a “cataclysmic” defeat in Scotland, where it could lose control of both Edinburgh and Glasgow councils. But while the SNP will score well, the Tories and Lib Dems are also projected to make 100 gains each too in the May 4 elections across England, Scotland and Wales. And UKIP are expected to lose between 80 and 90 seats, with their main losses taking place in England, as the party continues its post-Brexit demise in the wake of the loss of Nigel Farage as its leader. Hayward, a former Tory MP who is now a peer, said that Labour is likely to lose control of Derbyshire County Council and may fall behind the Conservatives in Lancashire and and Nottinghamshire County Councils.

Asteroid

Star
NASA have warned three huge asteroids screaming towards Earth and one will make its closest approach in 400 years. The space agency has spotted the 1km wide space rock hurtling towards our planet. Giant asteroid 2014 JO25 will make its closest approach to Earth in more than four centuries. NASA scientists have branded the object “potentially hazardous” when it arrives near Earth on April 19. Two other big asteroids, 2003 BD44 and 1999 CU3, which are both nearly 2km wide, will also pass by our planet later this year. Experts have predicted the object is expected to pass Earth safely and it will not make a journey so close for another 480 years. However, it will return to Earth in 2091 for another pass and the object regularly shoots past Mercury and Venus.

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