THE European Union has threatened to scrap a crucial summit to rubber-stamp a Brexit deal later this month if there is no breakthrough in the current deadlock in negotiations. Tony Connelly, Europe Editor at RTE, tweeted a senior European Union official had told Ireland’s national broadcaster there will be “no breakthrough” on the Irish backstop issue this week. This is reportedly because the UK-wide customs arrangement apparently proposed by Theresa May “brings with it a whole spectrum of small print, on “level playing field” issues, such as competition rules, state aid, social, environmental, health and safety rules that member states will want assurances on before they sign up to it”. Mr Connelly said this means the EU won’t grant tariff and quota-free access to the UK for a temporary customs arrangement without assurances on those level playing field issues.
Ireland has made clear it will “never accept” a Brexit deal that allows the UK to unilaterally end a Northern Ireland “backstop”. On his Twitter account, Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, said a “time-limited backstop” to the Irish border that could be ended unilaterally by the UK “would never be agreed to” by the Republic of Ireland or the EU. It comes following reports that Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, privately demanded the right to pull Britain out of the EU’s proposed backstop after just three months. On Monday, Theresa May also held a phone call with Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, who said he was open to a “review” mechanism for the backstop.
Brussels is preparing to back a compromise proposal on Ireland to resolve the last big sticking point in the Brexit negotiations. Senior EU figures have indicated that they are prepared to offer Theresa May an “independent mechanism” by which Britain could end a temporary customs arrangement with the bloc. The move comes before a cabinet meeting today at which Mrs May will attempt to assuage fears among Brexiteers that the so-called Northern Irish backstop will be used to trap Britain into being a “never ending” rule-taker from Brussels.
Theresa May called the Irish prime minister on Monday in order to calm anger in Dublin over comments made by her Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab. Mr Raab reportedly tried to backslide on a commitment the UK had made to prevent a hard border with the Republic, suggesting the “backstop” policy should expire after just three months. The taoiseach’s office said the prime minister had “sought” the call after the comments, said to have been made in a private meeting with officials, emerged. Leo Varadkar told Ms May he was open to a “review” mechanism for the backstop, which is controversial with Eurosceptics, but that this could not amount to “a unilateral decision to end” it by the UK.
The UK government has been told by Ireland to “stand by its commitments” on avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said an arrangement with a time limit would not be “worth the paper it’s written on”. The border issue is the main barrier to progress between the two sides. With time running out, Theresa May, who briefs her cabinet on Tuesday, has to get both the EU and her MPs on side. The European Union’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said divorce negotiations with the UK are not driven by a sense of revenge.
Labour would vote against a government plan designed to resolve the impasse in the Brexit negotiations on Northern Ireland, the shadow chancellor said. John McDonnell has told Newsnight that Labour would reject any customs arrangement with the EU unless it was established on a permanent basis. Theresa May hopes to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland through a temporary UK-wide customs arrangement. Mrs May plans to have an agreement with EU leaders by the end of this month. Such a move from Labour would raise the chances of Parliament rejecting her withdrawal agreement.
Theresa May is facing her Cabinet after Dublin insisted it would not accept any unilateral UK ability to end a Brexit backstop agreement on the Irish border. The meeting of senior ministers on Tuesday comes after Justice Secretary David Gauke said a no-deal EU exit would be “very bad” for the UK economy. Mrs May is understood to be seeking an opt-out to dampen hardline Tory and DUP concerns over plans for the whole of the UK to remain temporarily in a customs union with the EU after Brexit in order to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
SENIOR Cabinet ministers will today tell Theresa May she must “stare down” the EU over the Irish border or see Parliament rip up her Brexit deal. Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will lead as many as 12 Cabinet ministers in the defiant stand at the Cabinet’s weekly meeting in No10. They will call on the PM to insist on a mechanism in the Brexit deal for Britain to stay in control of how long it stays in any backstop customs union to keep the Irish border open. Failing to secure that would see around 40 Tory backbenchers torpedo in the Commons any deal she may sign in Brussels, the top ministers argue.
Reports over the weekend that a Brexit deal was imminent have been talked down by both Downing Street and European sources. But that has not stopped a flurry of concern from backbench Tory Brexiteers who are concerned the cabinet may be about to be “bounced” into agreeing to terms that they say could bind the UK into an indefinite customs “limbo” with the EU. Boris Johnson has used an article in The Sun to warn his former cabinet colleagues to “read the small print because we are about to be trapped”.
Prominent Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg have both spoke out against Theresa May’s Brexit plan that will seemingly keep the UK locked into the EU Customs Union, describing it as a potential “surrender” and questioning if the government are abandoning independence completely. Things are getting ugly. Writing for The Sun, Boris pointed out that: “Even after we leave – according to this so called deal – we will remain in a nonsensical ‘implementation period’ in which we will be effectively non-voting members of the EU. “For the first time in a thousand years we will have to accept foreign made laws – with no power to change or make those laws. “We will be a vassal state – a colony – for at least 18 months, and probably more.”
A new poll has found that the public would prefer to take back control of our laws, borders and trade policy over keeping close economic links with the EU. The Hanbury Strategy poll for Politico found that when voters were asked to choose between controlling our borders or keeping ties to the EU’s market, 60% wanted control vs 40% who didn’t. The same choice was given about whether the UK should have “more flexibility” to make our own laws, or “more investment and trade with the European Union” voters opted for controlling our laws by 65% to 35%, and by 59% to 41% voters wanted the power to strike Free Trade Deals rather than avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland.
Voters believe Brexit will bring immigration under control but hit them in the pocket – and 54 per cent now back Remain, a major poll has found. The survey of 20,000, the largest since the 2016 referendum, found a swing away from Leave, with respondents saying they would now back staying in the EU by 54 per cent to 46 per cent. The referendum saw 52 per cent vote Leave. Survation’s poll for Channel 4 News found support for Brexit has declined sharply in some constituencies which were staunchly pro-Leave two years ago.
BRITONS are so fed up with the ongoing Brexit divorce wrangling that they would rather Theresa May compromised with Brussels than left without a deal, a new poll has revealed. Nearly half back the Prime Minister doing a deal with the European Union if it means we can leave the bloc as quickly as possible. The findings come at the beginning of another pivotal week in the race to strike a deal with Brussels on the terms for Britain’s departure next March 29. Hopes that outstanding issues can be solved in time to call a special EU summit as early as next week to rubber stamp a deal appeared to have been dashed as negotiations continue.
Sad news, Brexiteers: Nigel Farage has said that he thinks Theresa May will get her unpopular Brexit deal through Parliament. Farage, speaking on Sky News said: “From previous experience of this the rebels within the Conservative Party tend to melt away and become a relatively small number. “I would have thought there will be quite a lot of Labour MPs in the Midlands, in the North, South Wales, sitting in seats where there was a big leave majority and by voting for May’s deal they can say to their constituents I voted for us to leave the European Union even if the detail means we haven’t really.” The former UKIP Leader continued: “My guess right at this moment in time, my guess is that the Customs Union-style deal that Theresa May is lining up, my guess is she will get it through Parliament.
European Union finance ministers will today discuss plans to introduce a levy on digital sales amid growing divisions over how to extract higher taxes from the sector. The EU summit follows Philip Hammond’s announcement of a plan to hit “established” tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, with a digital services tax. The European Commission has struggled to reach an agreement on reforms aimed at updating its regime for the digital era and prevent tax avoidance by American technology giants. Brussels has proposed a 3 per cent levy on internet sales, which it estimates could raise as much as €5 billion a year.
Citizen journalist and street organiser Tommy Robinson has been formally released from the bail conditions imposed on him by the Old Bailey court in London, as he awaits his ongoing contempt of court trial to go to the Attorney General. Robinson was bailed following a successful appeal against his conviction for contempt of court, handed down in May in a case which saw the former English Defence League founder-turned anti-extremism campaigner go from arrest to court, to prison in a matter of hours. The appeal ruled the process had been too hasty and due legal procedure had not been followed and “gave rise to unfairness”, meaning Robinson was entitled to a retrial in London’s Old Bailey court.
Growing the economy is a better way to cut the national debt than running budget surpluses, Philip Hammond has declared in an attempt to sever ties with his predecessor, George Osborne. The chancellor said that faster growth was “the smart way to shrink the debt”, stating his desire to increase spending on public services and cut taxes as he shifted fiscal policy closer to Labour. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, also plans to invest in growth to bring the debt down. Mr Hammond’s comments to MPs on the Treasury select committee underlined the huge shift in government policy priorities since the days of Tory deficit fixation.
A second inquiry into parliament’s bullying culture is to be held after an independent report found allegations of sexual harassment by MPs had been “tolerated and concealed”. After the damning findings about MPs’ treatment of Commons staff, the second review will examine historical allegations about their behaviour towards their own aides. As with the first inquiry, carried out by the retired High Court judge Dame Laura Cox, the new investigation will be led by an eminent female lawyer. Its terms of reference are expected to be similar, meaning that individual MPs facing complaints will not be named.
The Ministry of Defence has a £7 billion hole in its equipment budget over the next ten years because of over-optimistic forecasts, the public spending watchdog has said. Ministers have delayed programmes such as replacing Astute-class submarines and introducing Protector drones, the first remotely controlled aircraft with transatlantic capability. The moves are aimed at making this year’s budget affordable, but could add to future costs. In the worst-case scenario and if every risk materialises, the National Audit Office (NAO) says that the budget shortfall could be up to £14.8 billion.
The Ministry of Defence must find ‘immediate’ savings to address a £7billion black hole in the armed forces equipment budget, Whitehall’s spending watchdog warned. The National Audit Office (NAO) said the rolling 10-year plan from 2018 to 2028 remains ‘unaffordable’. But the MoD has said that, if every risk materialises, the shortfall could be as much as £14.8billion. It is considering whether to delay or defer some projects as part of the Modernising Defence Programme (MDP) launched in January after ministers delayed introducing first remotely controlled aircraft with transatlantic capability.
The Ministry of Defence must find savings to plug a £7bn hole in the armed forces equipment budget, the National Audit Office has warned. The spending regulator said the MoD’s current forecast for spending over the next 10 years remained “unaffordable”. Estimates say projects, including four new Trident nuclear submarines, will cost the UK more than £193bn by 2028. The MoD said it has received a £1.8bn boost, and it is making £9.5bn of efficiency savings. In its report, the National Audit Office (NAO) said “urgent action was needed” to plug the black hole in funding.
Superbugs do as much human damage in Europe as flu, HIV and tuberculosis combined, new data has revealed. Researchers have found that an estimated 33,000 people died from infections that were resistant to antibiotics in 2015, out of a total of 670,000 cases in Europe. Previous estimates have put the number of deaths from AMR at around 25,000 a year in Europe. It is the first time a detailed calculation of deaths from superbugs has been undertaken and the authors say their toll on health is equivalent to three major infectious diseases.
The World Health Organization has described increased antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest threats facing global public health. As disease-causing micro-organisms evolve and adapt, they naturally become more resistant to the antibiotics we have developed to destroy them, but the overuse and misuse of drugs is accelerating the process. A review commissioned by the UK government warned that the number of people dying worldwide every year from superbugs could increase from the 700,000 reported in 2016 to ten million by 2050.
Women who are “morning people” are 40 per cent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who stay up late, according to a study involving hundreds of thousands of participants. Researchers also found that sleeping beyond the recommended seven to eight hours was linked to a 20 per cent increased risk of the disease per additional hour slept. Women have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer and there are about 11,500 deaths from the disease annually in Britain.
For the past four weeks, the residents of Old Colwyn have been busily preparing for the big day. Their challenge? To fit a month’s-worth of household rubbish in a single black wheelie bin, ready for collection on Wednesday. According to their local council — the first in England and Wales to introduce four-weekly collections for all its residents — this should have been a piece of cake. (Well, not cake literally, it has to go in a different bin, of course). By simply sorting out their rubbish more carefully, they advised, householders would be able to recycle more, so freeing up ample space for items that have to be thrown away.
The Government is pushing ahead with controversial plans to dramatically raise the fees paid by families when winding up the estate of a loved one. The proposals will see estates worth £2m or more pay £6,000 in probate fees, up from £155 currently. The 3,770pc increase is a reduction on the original plans, which would have seen a bill of £20,000 for the largest estates. Estates with a value of between £1m and £1.6m will have to pay £4,000. In London and the South East, where high house prices have led to increased property wealth, many families will be caught out.
Grieving families will be hit with bills of up to £6,000 under a stealth death tax. The cost of securing probate – legal control over a deceased’s estate – is to soar from next April. Around 280,000 families a year will have to pay more than the current £215 fee – with 56,000 of them facing bills of £2,500 to £6,000. The Ministry of Justice is expected to rake in an extra £185million a year from the charges by 2022-23. Charities, legal groups and campaigners last night accused ministers of sneaking in an extra tax just a week after the Budget.
High Streets are facing a make-or-break Christmas as shoppers desert stores and flock online. A report published today reveals sales of clothing and homeware in shops slumped over the past three months ahead of the crucial festive period. By contrast, online sales soared, underlining the dramatic shift in shopping habits in the UK. With seven weeks to go until Christmas, experts are warning that the High Street faces another battle. Not only are stores struggling to tempt shoppers through their doors, they also face the prospect of millions of consumers waiting for prices to be slashed, including on Black Friday later this month.
For decades, his gripping wildlife documentaries have taught us all about nature’s secrets. But Sir David Attenborough believes there’s one lesson we still need to learn from the animal kingdom – giving more power to the female of the species. The broadcaster and naturalist, 92, said he wants to see more women take on roles of power in society to mirror what he sees in the wild. Sir David narrates new BBC wildlife documentary Dynasties – which highlights the fact that many females in the animal kingdom prove more useful than the males. The veteran host gave the example of female bull elephants who have ‘all the wisdom’, while the males run around ‘trumpeting and copulating’.