British officials have accepted there will have to be a trade-off between access to the single market and political control during the Brexit negotiations, it has been reported. The government had previously promised a deal where Britain could have both but it appears this idea is now being softened as the fallout after the general election continues. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had previously claimed Britain could “have its cake and eat it” suggesting there would no need to make any concession over immigration or court jurisdiction to get full trade access. Civil servants are now reportedly saying this is not possible and are providing ministers with a choice between accepting political compromises on issues such as freedom of movement or settling for a trade deal which is considerably more limited.
BREXIT talks could be extended for at least another year to avoid the eventuality of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal, a top Brussels power broker said today. Romanian MEP Siegfried Muresan, who is the spokesman for the influential EPP centre-right grouping, said complex negotiations may need to drag on for an extra 12 months to avoid the “negative consequences” facing both sides. However, EU officials warned that whilst such an extension is possible it would come at an exorbitant price for Britain, with other member states seeking sweeping concessions from Westminster. An extension of the talks is legally possible but requires the unanimous approval of all 27 member states, meaning each wields an all-powerful veto that they can use as bargaining leverage.
Business leaders are preparing to send a delegation to Brussels with a proposal for a post-Brexit free trade deal for financial services, the Financial Times has reported. The City of London group fears the fallout from Brexit negotiations if access to EU markets is curtailed. According to the newspaper, the delegation, to be led by former City minister Mark Hoban, is independent of the Government, but has the unofficial support of some Whitehall figures. A number of banks have set up contingency plans after Theresa May said that with Brexit the UK would leave the single market. Some banks have announced plans to move staff, while others have stepped up operations at EU sites in cities including Frankfurt and Dublin.
Insiders claim the Government is abandoning its ambitions for a so-called “have your cake and eat it” Brexit, and are considering trading away sovereignty in order to protect “economic interests”. The left wing Guardian claims to have spoken to officials who say the Government is coming around to the view that “really there are only two viable options: One is a high [market] access, low [immigration] control arrangement which looks a bit like the [European Economic Area (EEA)]”. “The other is a low [market] access, high [immigration] control arrangement where you eventually end up looking like [the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)] – a more classic free trade agreement, if you are lucky.
The EU is damaging British business by delaying trade talks while withdrawal negotiations take place, according to the Director General of the British Chamber of Commerce. Adam Marshall said 54% of UK businesses feel the needs of businesses have not been prioritised in the negotiation timetable set by Brussels. He said: “We are very supportive of the UK government in wanting to discuss the future relationship – the future trading relationship between the EU and the UK as early as possible in the process. “We’re not happy about the fact that’s been delayed for the withdrawal talks to start first – we’d like to see that conservation to start now because it lets businesses begin to plan, it lets them put together investment strategies, and I think crucially it gives them the confidence that both sides are keen on reaching a reasonable deal.” The EU actively trying to punish Britain for leaving its sacred club? Surely not?! But the joke’s on them –confidence in British business is at an 18 month high and they also saw overseas trade amount to £127 billion in 2016.
Public sector pay freeze
Philip Hammond has said that Britain needs to have a “grown-up debate” about whether people are prepared to pay more tax to increase public spending amid a deepening Cabinet split. The Chancellor said that all voters need to consider the “serious question” of whether they are prepared accept higher taxes to ease austerity after “seven years of hard slog”. In a speech on Monday night he said: “The serious question to the electorate cannot be ‘would you like us to tax someone who isn’t you to pay for you to consume more?’, but ‘would you be willing to pay more tax to consume more public services?’”
Ministers are pushing to delay or abandon a series of tax cuts to fund an increase in public sector pay, The Times has learnt. Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is being urged to scrap commitments to reduce corporation tax and raise the thresholds for the personal allowance and the 40 per cent income tax rate. The policies have been announced by the Tories but are not due to take effect until later in the parliament. The cabinet is split over how any lifting of the 1 per cent cap on pay rises for five million public sector workers — in place since 2012 — might be funded.
Philip Hammond has insisted pay policy has not changed and the “right balance” must continue to be struck in terms of what is fair for workers and taxpayers. The chancellor, who is under pressure from colleagues to lift the 1% public pay cap, said he understood people were “weary” after seven years of austerity. But speaking in London, he rejected calls to “take the foot off the pedal”. Government must “hold its nerve” in the face of calls for a “different path” of higher taxes and borrowing, he said. Mr Hammond is facing a growing chorus from within his own party for him to reconsider the 1% limit on increases in public sector salaries, which has been in place since 2012.
Police Minister Nick Hurd has told the House of Commons that ending the public sector pay freeze is “under active discussion.” Mr Hurd said: “We want to make sure that frontline public service workers including the police are paid fairly for their work. Not least because of the contribution they have made over the years to reducing the deficit we inherited from the party opposite – and in that, the work they have done in safeguarding hundreds of thousands of jobs. “How we do that in a way, that is sustainable and affordable, is under active discussion.” Number 10 has insisted the 1 per cent pay cap is still in place and that there have been no changes to the policy. Last week a Number 10 spokesperson indicated the policy was under review, before later claiming it wasn’t.
THE Chancellor has taken a fighting stance to defend his austerity programme as his allies claim he will not be “bullied” into scrapping the public sector pay cap. Philip Hammond has been facing immense pressure from Tory heavyweights including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove to ease the party’s rolling plans of sharp public sector cuts. The public sector sector pay freeze – which has been in place since 2010 and is set to continue until 2020 – limits annual rises for public sector workers to one per cent. Pay review bodies for the NHS and schools have reported problems of recruitment and retention in their sectors due to the cap.
The teaching profession has seen average pay fall by £3 an hour in real terms and police officers by £2 an hour, while the wages of nurses have stagnated during a decade of public sector salary freezes, a new report for the government’s pay advisers has found. The academic analysis was quietly published on Monday before a crucial cabinet meeting where Theresa May and the chancellor, Philip Hammond, are likely to face pressure from colleagues to agree a timetable for easing seven years of public sector pay restraint. The report, commissioned by the Office of Manpower Economics – which supports the independent bodies making recommendations on public sector pay, found median hourly earnings of UK workers dropped in real terms by almost 6% between 2005 and 2015, with some sectors suffering worse drops than others.
Hundreds of thousands of nurses, midwives and brave soldiers will not get a decent pay rise this year, Theresa May announced today. The PM’s official spokesman made clear there will be no reassessment of the miserable 1% pay hike offered to NHS staff and Armed Forces personnel for 2017/18. “These were the recommendations that were made for 17/18 and we’ve accepted them,” he said. However pay deals for other public sector workers including teachers and the police have yet to be agreed for 2017/18. And in the Commons Police Minister Nick Hurd said a proper pay rise for the cops is under “active discussion” in Government.
GERMANY and France today pledged to take in thousands more migrants under the EU’s relocation scheme as Italy continues to buckle under the pressure of record rates of new arrivals. In a joint statement Paris, Berlin and Rome set out a series of proposals for bringing the current migration chaos under control including upgrading camps in Libya and sealing off the country’s southern border. Italy has been forced to take drastic measures, including threatening to turn rescue boats away from its ports, with more than 10,000 people arriving across the Mediterranean every week. Along with Greece it is supposed to benefit from Brussels imposed quotas, which automatically relocate migrants to other member states, but the scheme has fallen into chaos amid bitter infighting between member states.
NEGOTIATORS from Ireland and the European Union today blasted Britain’s attempts to take back control of its fishing waters, branding them “unhelpful” and insisting nothing has changed. Irish agriculture minister Andrew Doyle laid into Environment Secretary Michael Gove over his announcement the UK will be leaving the London Fisheries Convention after Brexit. The agreement, signed before Britain joined the EU in the 1960s, grants its participant countries, including Ireland, the right to fish within 12 to six miles of each other’s coastlines. But experts say the UK gets by far the worst deal out of the pact because other EU nations land far more catches within sights of our shores than our trawlermen do elsewhere in Europe. The Irish fishing industry is particularly reliant on the current setup given the close proximity between the two countries and has expressed grave concerns about what the future will hold.
The UK will be a “laughing stock” in Europe if it cannot police its fishing waters after Brexit, former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West has said. He claimed there were few vessels to enforce new regulations for UK inshore fishing waters after it leaves the EU. And the ex-Falklands veteran, who was once a Labour security minister, said he was “stunned” at the government’s “amazing complacency” over the issue. But minister Lord Gardiner insisted a vessel monitoring system was in place. Lord West raised the issue just days after the government announced it is to withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention – the deal which allows foreign fisherman access to British waters.
UKIP fisheries spokesman, Mike Hookem MEP, has hailed the announcement that the UK is to leave the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) as “brilliant”, but warned against complacency in thinking the “job is done.” Mr Hookem spoke out following the release of a briefing note that acknowledged the UK’s withdrawal from the CFP for the first time. Speaking from Strasbourg where he is attending the European Parliament, Mr Hookem said, “For decades the CFP has been a thorn in the side of the fishing community and has heralded a vast decline in both the industry and coastal communities. Therefore, it is great news that the Government has decided to withdraw the UK from the CFP and govern our fishing grounds under the UN’s UNCLOS conventions.”
Theresa May has been accused of reneging on her promise to protect the green belt after a new report concluded that almost half a million fresh homes are to be built, with most deemed “unaffordable”. Campaign to Protect Rural England’s (CPRE) annual Green Belt Under Siege report found that just 28 per cent, or 118,900, of houses planned for green belt land would be affordable. “Many local plans state clearly that the priority is not to provide affordable housing, but large houses to service demand at the top end of the market,” it said. “At a time when more than 1.8 million households in England are waiting for a ‘social’ home, a clear majority of the housing proposed on land to be released from the Green Belt will be unaffordable for most people living in the local area.”
Theresa May has ditched plans to hold a parliamentary vote on bringing back fox hunting, the Government has confirmed. The Prime Minister had promised to hold the vote after saying she was in favour of hunting being legalised, but was forced to row back after the general election deprived her of a parliamentary majority. The Tories’ latest manifesto U-turn was confirmed in response to a parliamentary question from Labour MP Catherine West, seen by The Independent. Answering a query about the Government’s latest policy on hunting, Theresa Coffey, a minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “The government’s manifesto includes a free vote on the Hunting Act 2004, but we are not planning to bring forward a free vote in this session”.
JEREMY Corbyn delivered a powerful message of unity within the Labour Party – while behind closed doors, MPs paint a picture of chaos. Deep divisions in the party are forcing backbenchers further and further apart and warnings are being delivered from the top as the fray threatens to blow the party apart. Yet, the Corbyn camp has continued to insist it will put the socialist into Number 10 within months. The Labour leader tweeted: “We’re united, we’re determined and we’re many. “Labour’s in permanent campaign mode and will fight every day until we form the next government.” Rumours are now emerging senior MPs are plotting to breakaway from the hard left, and create a more centrist party. Ian Lavery, who was in charge of Labour’s election campaign, said the party recognises there are vast differences of opinion – and hinted he could work to wipe that out.
Jeremy Corbyn has made a raft of appointments to Labour’s front bench as he seeks to unite the party after cementing his position as leader. The Labour leader has given jobs to 20 MPs, including a number that have been openly critical of his leadership. Among those to be brought back into the fold are former Shadow Young People Secretary Gloria de Piero, who was the second MP to resign from the Shadow Cabinet last June citing concerns about Mr Corbyn’s leadership. Roberta Blackman-Woods, the former housing minister, has been given a job in the International Development team. Resigning as a minister last year, Ms Blackman-Woods told Mr Corbyn: “I no longer have confidence in you as a leader who can display the attributes listed above and enable us to win a general election.”
Jeremy Corbyn has promoted a string of fresh faces to his top team – days after he sacked three shadow ministers over a Brexit rebellion. A total of 20 new and returning MPs will join the Labour frontbench team, including some who resigned in the row over Jeremy Corbyn ’s leadership last Spring. Gloria De Piero, who resigned as Shadow Minister for Young People last June, will return as a Shadow Justice Minister in Corbyn’s new team.
LABOUR’S announcement of the appointment of 20 new shadow ministers has been ridiculed after the party press release misspelt three names of the MPs on the list. Tracy Brabin, the Labour MP for Batley & Spen who replaced succeeded Jo Cox after she was horrifically murdered last June, was among those whose names were spelled wrong, with the press release naming her “Tracey”. Ms Brain is set to become a spokesperson for education for the Labour party after retaining her seat in last month’s election. Gloria De Piero, who worked under Ed Miliband when he was the Labour leader, became Gloria “di Piero” in the press release.
THE Northern Ireland Secretary is to announce the Government’s next step after a deadline for restored powersharing came and went. James Brokenshire will update the House of Commons this afternoon after the main political parties in Belfast failed to find common cause. His options include setting another deadline for a talks process which has continued for months, calling this year’s second snap assembly election or re-imposing some form of direct rule from Westminster. The Democratic Unionists have urged Sinn Fein to change their approach to the negotiations between the two largest parties on establishing devolved government in Northern Ireland and accused republicans of making excessive demands.
James Brokenshire says he thinks an executive can be formed to run Northern Ireland’s devolved administration as “early as this week”. The Northern Ireland Secretary told the House of Commons he continues to believe the various parties can resolve their differences. “I continue to believe that a deal remains achievable and if agreement is reached I will bring forward legislation to enable an executive to be formed, possibly as early as this week,” he said.
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has confirmed that no power-sharing deal has been reached in Northern Ireland. Thursday’s deadline had been extended to 4pm today. Mr Brokenshire said “progress had been made” between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party and that a deal “remains achievable” but warned that “time is running out”. Mr Brokenshire said that since the election in March, “civil servants not politicians have been making decisions in Northern Ireland” – a hiatus he said could not continue indefinitely.
The Labour leadership is creating passenger misery on one of Britain’s biggest rail networks by “egging on” unions to take strike action, according to the transport secretary. Chris Grayling said that Jeremy Corbyn’s right-hand man should bear personal responsibility for industrial action that threatens to bring fresh chaos to Southern Rail. He accused John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, of “abusing” his connections with unions to create political strife. It was “absolute nonsense” that the unions were still prepared to strike over the issue of driver-only operated trains when the system had been fully operating for six months and performance was actually improving, he told The Times.
Patients were given deadly contaminated blood for at least five years after health officials became aware of the danger, damning documents reveal. Newly unearthed minutes of meetings held in 1980 and 1981 show that officials consciously put patients at risk during a scandal which killed 2,000 people. Scientists were so sure the blood was dangerous, they even planned to use victims as guinea pigs to develop a new test for hepatitis, say the papers, which are likely to play a central role in a major civil action to be lodged at the High Court today, in which 300 families of victims are suing the Government.
Councils will be fined for failing to do enough to help elderly patients leave hospital, under proposals from Jeremy Hunt. The Health Secretary will introduce new bedblocking targets for local authorities to reduce the number of patients who are stuck in hospital. Bedblocking occurs when a patient is medically fit enough to leave hospital but cannot go because the necessary care has not been put in place at home. In about a third of cases, this is the fault of the local council for failing to carry out a needs assessment or allocate a place in residential care, for example. But the situation creates huge problems in hospitals and leads to overcrowding in A&E and the cancellation of operations.