Brexit

Express
PARLIAMENT erupted in laughter this afternoon when Iain Duncan Smith pointed out the absurdity of the EU’s Brexit stance. After weeks of warnings from Brussels on “cherry-picking” and “having your cake and eating it”, the former Tory leader hit out at EU leaders with a sharp jab. Mr Duncan Smith praised Theresa May for her Brexit speech last week before turning the screw on the EU following an address in Parliament yesterday. He said: “When she gets into negotiations with her European counterparts about trade arrangements, could she remind them that cake exists to be eaten and cherries exist to be picked.” This was met by laughter and cries of “hear, hear” from the Tory benches.

Independent
The European Parliament’s Brexit chief will come to London on Monday to warn Theresa May she must move beyond “vague aspirations” and outline “credible proposals” for Brexit that solve the Irish border and citizens’ rights issues. Guy Verhofstadt will meet with the Prime Minister at Downing Street, where he will also hold talks with Brexit Secretary David Davis, the Home Secretary Amber Rudd, and Cabinet Office minister David Lidingdon. Mr Verhofstadt, whose visit follows one by Michel Barnier last month, will also be briefed in-depth by UK officials about plans for citizens’ rights and the Northern Ireland border.

Times
Philip Hammond said yesterday that no-deal planning must continue until the end of 2020, publicly recognising the scale of the negotiation that would still face the country after Brexit. The chancellor told MPs on the European scrutiny committee that it was likely to be possible to “stand down” preparations for no deal on the date of Brexit once an implementation plan had been agreed with other EU leaders. He said it would probably then be necessary to start preparing once more for a cliff edge at the end of the transition period, set for December 2020. The European Commission is expecting to conclude a broad outline agreement on Britain’s future partnership by October this year, possibly running to between 20 and 40 pages.

Independent
Philip Hammond has said the Government could extend contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit until the end of the transition period. The Chancellor cast doubt over the Government’s confidence in securing a favourable agreement with the EU, telling MPs that it would still be necessary to prepare for the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal when the two-year transition period ends, in 2020 or 2021. If agreement is reached on a transition deal, then the Treasury could “stand down” its current preparations, which have already cost some £700m, Mr Hammond told a key Commons committee. He also said that a post-Brexit transition deal needs to be agreed by April, or airlines will not be able to schedule flights for next year.

Sun
TREASURY experts got Brexit predictions wrong because they were using “unrealistic” assumptions, “flawed analysis” and “exaggerated” evidence, researchers have said. Academics from the University of Cambridge – who mostly voted Remain in the referendum – said that gloomy civil servants had a “poor record” and their sums were “flawed”. After leaked impact assessments showing a pessimistic picture of leaving the EU were released earlier this year, Brexiteers blamed Remainers for trying to undermine our EU exit. The research from the Treasury showed Britain will suffer in every scenario when Britain leaves the European Union – but that a US trade deal will boost growth. But Leavers said it wasn’t even looking at the deal we wanted to get with the EU, and was drawn up by people who don’t want us to leave at all.

Independent
Theresa May has been forced to defend her Brexit plans amid claims the EU is likely to reject them. The Prime Minister insisted proposals outlined in a major speech on Friday to maintain an open border in Northern Ireland and ensure a close trading relationship with Europe were “credible”. It comes as European leaders suggested the plan would be difficult to accept because it would undermine the EU’s single market. Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, was among those suggesting the EU may reject the plan. He told the BBC’s
Andrew Marr Show: “She hasn’t really gone into any more detail than we’ve already heard in terms of how she’s going to solve the problem of maintaining a largely invisible border on the island of Ireland.”

Breitbart
Brussels bureaucrats are set to reject the Prime Minister’s proposals for the Irish border and a unique but ‘softer’ form of Brexit, offering only a trade deal such as that agreed with Canada. During her major Brexit speech last week, Theresa May argued that no trade deal is the same and the European Union (EU) should take a sector-by-sector approach to Brexit talks, adding that a Canada-style deal would not be right for maintaining current levels of trade. “The EU is the UK’s biggest market, and of course the UK is also a big market for the EU. And furthermore, we have a unique starting point, where on day one we both have the same laws and rules,” the Prime Minister added. However, an EU source has told 
The Telegraph they will reject Mrs. May’s position in new negotiating guidelines, insisting only a Canada-style deal can be achieved if the UK leaves the Customs Union. The guideline will leave open the chance for the UK to remain in the union, however.

ITV News
Theresa May has received a fresh warning that she could struggle to get a Brexit deal which includes the UK’s lucrative financial sector. In her Mansion House speech on Friday, the Prime Minister set out her plans for Britain and the EU to access each other’s financial markets based on a commitment to maintaining the same “regulatory outcomes”. However Stefaan De Rynck, a senior adviser to the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, said that since the global crash of 2008, the EU had increasingly moved away from a system of “mutual recognition” by member states of each others’ rules to more centralised regulation. Speaking at the London School of Economics on Monday, he said if there was a “market failure” it meant the EU authorities could step in to intervene – which would no longer apply to the UK if it was outside the EU.

Northern Ireland

Express
IRELAND has outright rejected a possible solution to the Brexit border puzzle just hours after a proposal was put forward by Theresa May. The Republic of Ireland  said it would “definitely not” entertain a US-Canada style arrangement after Brexit, something the Prime Minister suggested this afternoon. Mrs May told MPs yesterday she was considering all manner of solutions to the problem – including adopting a similar situation as the one on the border between Canada and the USA. Her comment was jeered by Remain-supporting MPs, with Labour’s Jenny Chapman shouting out across the House of Commons the US-Canada border was protected by armed guards. Mrs May’s suggestion was also condemned by Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this evening. The Taoiseach himself visited the US-Canada border last year and informed UK negotiators at the time it could not be seen as inspiration for the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Independent
Sinn Fein has called on Theresa May to come up with her own solution to the Irish border issue after its leader met with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Brussels on Monday. Mary Lou McDonald and a delegation of Irish republicans travelled to Brussels on Monday to meet with Michel Barnier for what she described as a “frank, productive and positive” meeting. “The ball is now in Mrs May’s court, the ball is now in the court of the British, who say they don’t like what they have seen, they don’t like the solution advanced by Europe, if they don’t like that we would like to know what is their solution,” Ms McDonald said. Giving an account of her meeting with Mr Barnier, she said: “I am happy to say we have a shared understanding that there cannot be a withdrawal agreement, much less an agreement on any future relationship between Britain and the European Union, in the absence of an answer to the Irish question.”

Express
THE Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has refused to participate in three-way Brexit talks between the UK, Ireland and Brussels as he insisted his nation is much stronger in the European Union. Mr Varadkar said it was not in Ireland‘s interests to take part in such talks regarding the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union despite disagreements over the border with Northern Ireland. His comments came after Theresa May suggested Mr Varadkar had agreed to form three-way talks to look at the Irish border element of the proposals that she outlined as part of her strategy for an “ambitious partnership” with the EU after Brexit.

BBC News
Sinn Féin shared a meeting of minds at talks with the EU’s chief negotiator on Monday, the party said. Party President Mary Lou McDonald made the comments after she and her party colleagues met Michel Barnier in Brussels. It follows comments from Prime Minister Theresa May that she did not want to see a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Ms McDonald said the issue was now “in Mrs May’s court”. She said the British government had to come up with Plan A and Plan B, and there could be be no overall agreement on Brexit unless the issue of the border was solved. The Sinn Féin leader said her party was “not looking for a border down the Irish Sea”.

Housing

Westmonster
Theresa May’s given a speech on the housing crisis and managed to avoid highlighting the fact that mass migration is a major factor that is surging demand. May spoke of a lack of social mobility and a crisis of unaffordability, which is all well and good, but it ignores some of the crucial facts. Britain recently saw an annual population increase of 538,000, 62% of which was fuelled by net migration. This is the highest number for 70 years – but the PM ignored this huge surge in demand. There were 1.2m new households established between 2005 and 2015, 1.1m of them went to people who were not born in the UK, according to a MigrationWatchUK. And the population is set to rise to 70m by 2029, the Office for National Statistics states. In London, migrant households now account for nearly two-thirds of all households in the private rented sector,  MigrationWatchUK says.

UKIP
The Prime Minister’s speech today on the housing crisis which threatened both local councils and developers alike will fail to deal with the problem of housing unless the Government she leads gets serious about why we need so many houses in the first place. The hundreds of thousands of migrants who make their way to this country every year who, naturally all need somewhere to live. Gerard Batten MEP, the UKIP leader said: “The PM managed to manage to make this speech without mentioning the root cause of this problem, that is the year on year total of people moving to this country. According to the Office for National Statistics last year that was 244,000 people, each and every one of them needing a roof over their head. In these circumstances, housing prices are rising, and of course, key workers on low average wages are finding it harder and harder to find affordable housing.

Trade wars

Times
The EU is gearing up for a transatlantic trade war in which Harley-Davidson motorcycles, bourbon whiskey and Levi jeans are on a hit-list of US goods targeted for retaliatory tariffs. Donald Trump defended his decision to slap hefty charges on imported steel and aluminium saying that the US had been “ripped off by virtually every country in the world whether it’s friend or enemy”. President Macron of France called on the EU to take quick measures against the US. “If the American announcement is confirmed, it would be a very bad response to the international environment because it is economic nationalism,” he said. “Nationalism is war and a war that all the world loses.

Guardian
Theresa May has called Donald Trump to raise Britain’s “deep concern” over plans to impose tariffs of 25% on imports of steel and 10% on aluminium amid US threats of a trade war with China and escalating tensions with the EU. The prime minister had been scheduled to call the US president on Sunday to discuss the appalling situation in Syria, with the pair agreeing it was a humanitarian catastrophe driven by the Syrian regime and its backer, Russia, according to Downing Street. But May also turned to the question of Trump’s comments on trade. “The prime minister raised our deep concern at the president’s forthcoming announcement on steel and aluminium tariffs, noting that multilateral action was the only way to resolve the problem of global overcapacity in all parties’ interests,” said a No 10 spokeswoman.

EU

Express
THE European Union has been warned not to put British patients’ lives at risk as Theresa May and Labour demand continued medical co-operation after Brexit. The Prime Minister and the opposition have both demanded continued membership of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) after the country leaves the European Union. Mrs May said today the UK and EU would both benefit from Britain’s continued EMA membership and called for a “far-reaching science and innovation pact” after Brexit. The PM said Britain’s “world-leading universities” and industrious regulatory meant the bloc would suffer if the country was denied EMA membership after Brexit. Countries outside the EU but within the European Economic Area, such as Norway, are part of the EMA. However because Mrs May is determined to leave the single market, their future membership of the EMA is also in doubt.

Westmonster
European Union big wigs should be afraid…very afraid. The Italians have spoken, and they’re not speaking the same language as Juncker and Co. It looks as though a Eurosceptic centre-right coalition is nailed on to take office, according to exit polls, and this represents a monumental two fingers up to the European project. A centre-right coalition is expected; that would mean Lega going into office alongside Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the Brothers of Italy. But the 5 Star Movement looks to have taken the most seats, and some form of coalition between the new, populist party and Lega, etc… can’t be ruled out. No matter which way you dress it up, it’s bad news for the EU. In a nutshell, the overwhelming majority of Italians are Eurosceptic, anti-mass migration and uneasy about the single currency. The clock’s ticking for Brussels. Their superstate dream is dying election after election.

Fox News
Since the European Union’s founding treaty was signed in Rome more than 60 years ago, Italy has been an unabashed booster of increased unity and common purpose. That may have come to an end. Euroskeptics and populists rode a wave of hostility toward all things EU and surged to the fore in Italian elections on Sunday, turning the founding EU nation into a potential obstructionist just when the bloc was emerging from a decade of economic gloom and seemed poised to rekindle its grand ambitions. Beyond moving away from the EU policies in Brussels, the Italian results were the latest indication that the continent is tilting further to the right.

Guardian
The EU will keep its draft guidelines for a post-Brexit trade deal as short and general as possible, the Guardian understands, in order to force Theresa May to explain what the UK wants and leaving the door open for a British shift on the customs union and single market. The publication of the EU’s draft guidelines on Tuesday will be a stark moment for the prime minister, as it is made clear that a whole range of proposals made by May in her Mansion House speech on Friday are to be rejected. The document will, however, fall short of providing any kind of detailed plan, due in part to a lack of substantive discussion among the member states on the issue, but also reflecting a hope that the UK’s position would develop in time, senior EU sources said.

Mail
Hungary last night broke ranks to heap praise on  Theresa May’s Brexit vision and to warn Brussels it must drop any attempt to punish Britain in negotiations. In a boost for the Prime Minister, the Eastern European member state rejected EU  chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s claim that Mrs May is seeking to ‘cherry pick’ with her demand for a bespoke deal. Zoltan Kovacs, Hungary’s Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, said Brussels needs to recognise its failings caused Brexit and that a good deal is in the EU’s interests too. 

NHS

Mail
More than 5,000 patients are still stuck in hospital with flu and norovirus – the equivalent of one in 20 NHS beds. Three times as many people have had to stay in hospital this year after the worst flu season in seven years. This has combined with a spike in norovirus cases to fill the equivalent of ten acute hospitals with these patients alone, the head of NHS England warned. Simon Stevens said NHS staff had worked tirelessly to cope with this winter’s pressures. He praised their efforts at reducing so-called bedblocking, adding that the health service had ‘turned the corner’ by working with councils to enable patients to be discharged more quickly.

Mirror
Around 5,000 hospital beds are currently occupied by patients with flu or norovirus , as the NHS faces its worst flu season for seven years. The number of hospitalisations is three times higher than last year. NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens told MPs it was the equivalent of having 10 acute hospitals solely dealing with the winter diseases. But speaking at the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Mr Stevens said a reduction in ‘bed blocking’ meant fewer operations were cancelled than had been expected. He said: “The bad news is that we’ve had the worst flu season in seven years. We’ve had a hospitalisation rate three times higher than last year for flu, so as a result even today we have got around 5,000 hospital beds occupied by people with flu or with norovirus.

Italian elections

Telegraph
Italian voters have swept away their country’s pro-European establishment after seventy years of unbroken rule, marking a revolutionary turn in Europe’s post-war history. Populist parties of Left and Right command the political landscape of a major eurozone state for the first time, vowing openly to defy EU fiscal rules, banking codes, and migrant policies. Both wings have pledged to roll back reforms forced on Italy by the European Commission and the European Central Bank. Both are committed to manifestos that put them on an unstoppable collision course with the Franco-German hegemony.

Breitbart
After the center-right coalition’s victory in Sunday’s elections, Matteo Salvini was quick to rule out an alliance with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, insisting Monday that his party is ready to run Italy. The League also achieved an important upset victory over coalition partner Forza Italia, meaning that Salvini—and not Silvio Berlusconi—has won the right to name the coalition’s candidate for prime minister, none other than Salvini himself. “The center right is the coalition  that won and that can govern,” 44-year-old Salvini said Monday, adding that “the League won inside the coalition and will be at the helm of the center-right.” The leader of the League also ruled out any “strange alliances” with other groups, meaning the 5-Star Movement.

Russian spy

Times
A former Russian double agent who passed secrets to MI6 was fighting for his life in hospital last night after a suspected poisoning that raised fears of an assassination attempt on British soil. Sergei Skripal, 66, had been jailed in Russia for treason but was later given refuge in the UK as part of a spy swap deal. He was found unconscious on an outdoor bench in the precincts of a shopping centre in Salisbury, Wiltshire. A woman aged 33, who is known to Mr Skripal, was slumped alongside him and was also in a critical condition last night. Wiltshire police said that the pair had no visible injuries and officers were working to identify the substance.

Telegraph
After arriving in Britain eight years ago as part of an extraordinary ‘spy swap’, former Russian intelligence agent, Sergei Skripal had been leading a life of quiet anonymity in the Wiltshire city of Salisbury. Grateful to have been pardoned by the Russian authorities for his decades of espionage, the 66-year-old was enjoying an unexpectedly peaceful retirement. Neighbour James Puttock, 47, said Mr Skripal had invited the whole road to a housewarming party when he first moved to the Salisbury area. He said: “He didn’t look like a spy. He never really looked smart, he looked very casual, he stood out because of that, it’s hard to remember anything special about him.”

Mail
A Russian colonel who spied for MI6 is critically ill in a British hospital amid fears of a poison plot. Sergei Skripal, 66, was rushed to hospital after collapsing in a shopping centre in Salisbury on Sunday. He was found with a 33-year-old woman, who is also fighting for her life. She is thought to be a family member. Health chiefs said the pair had been exposed to an ‘unknown substance’.  Officials said anyone who feels ill should contact 111 as they desperately worked to identify the mystery substance. This evening, police shut down a Zizzi Restaurant on Castle Street in Salisbury ‘as a precaution’ in connection with the incident.

Sun
A FORMER Russian double agent was fighting for life last night after being found poisoned in a shopping centre. Retired spy Colonel Sergei Skripal, 66, and a woman – believed to be his daughter – who was with him were  critically ill in hospital. They were found slumped in Salisbury, Wilts, where police said they were exposed to an unidentified substance. The incident sparked fears of a Kremlin-backed hit on Skripal, who was jailed for treason in Russia and came to Britain in a 2010 spy swap. Reports last night said Skripal had recently feared for his life. his wife had died after joining him in the UK and his son was recently killed in a car crash in Russia.

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