Brexit

Express
GIBRALTAR has come out in support for a no deal Brexit as an alternative if Brussels offers the UK a bad deal. In an unlikely turn of events, Gibraltar’s principal vice minister of Gibraltar and leader of the Liberal Party Joseph Garcia said a no deal Brexit will be “better than a bad agreement” in the British territory’s New Year message to its residents. Mr Garcia added: “The head minister has already made it clear that an exit without an agreement is better than a bad agreement. “Gibraltar must be prepared to leave the negotiating table if it has to. In these circumstances, planning for so many months to deal with a no deal Brexit will allow us to be well prepared.” He elaborated, adding that it would be unfair for Gibraltar to pay the price for a bad deal from the EU, hinting at Spain’s relentless quest to take the territory from the UK. He added that the “the no deal planning that has consumed us for many months will stand us in good stead”.

Independent
Boris Johnson is planning official events to mark the UK’s departure from the European Union on 31 January, Downing Street has indicated. The prime minister’s official spokesperson said that details of Mr Johnson’s plans for Brexit Day would be announced “shortly”. But he declined to say whether Mr Johnson will give the government’s support to a parliamentary move by Brexit hardliners to require Big Ben to be sounded at 11pm on Brexit Day as the UK’s membership lapses. Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage is planning to throw a £100,000 “celebration” party in Parliament Square on the night of EU withdrawal, with fireworks, bands and speakers.

Order-order
Whilst today’s Downing Street press briefing consisted mostly of questions over Iran, one brave hack decided to break away and ask whether Number 10 was going to support Brexiteer MPs’ Brexit Bill amendment for Big Ben to bong at 11pm on the 31st to symbolise finally Brexiting. The PM’s spokesperson not only didn’t deny supporting the bong amendment, he went even further, refusing to deny No. 10 weren’t planning wider official celebrations. Unfortunately for Boris, he’ll have to race Nigel to book Parliament Square…

Express
THE Lib Dems have called for an investigation into the result of the EU referendum in their latest attempt to cancel Brexit which has left social media users outraged. In a shocking move, acting Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey announced there needs to be an investigation into the EU referendum and its result. The party will table an amendment to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill. The amendment will call for an inquiry within six months of the bill being passed.

Sky News
Emergency preparations for a no-deal Brexit have been stood down “with immediate effect” as Boris Johnson’s deal is expected to be approved by MPs. Civil service chiefs who have spent many months working on contingency plans, known as Operation Yellowhammer, were told to bring them to a halt two days before Christmas, Sky News has learnt. According to a leaked letter – marked “Official Sensitive” and sent by the most senior official at the Department for Exiting the EU to senior officials on December 23 – staff will no longer be deployed on the plans, as the prime minister’s Brexit deal is expected to be approved by MPs, paving the way for Britain’s exit from the EU this month.

Guardian
Boris Johnson is facing demands for cash compensation that could run to more than £100m for any disruption caused by Brexit to Northern Ireland’s businesses. Leading entrepreneurs who met political leaders in a local summit on Friday, fear the trade barrier down the Irish Sea will mean higher costs for consumers and businesses. “People here did not vote for this future, we should not be expected to pay the price for it in jobs and lost opportunities,” said Colum Eastwood, the newly elected MP for Foyle and leader of the Social Democratic and Labour party.

Trade talks

Mail
Britain will conduct post-Brexit trade talks with the US at the same time as it negotiates the terms of the UK’s future relationship with the EU, Downing Street has signalled. The UK will split from Brussels on January 31 and there will then be a ‘standstill’ transition period until the end of 2020 when the two sides will try to hammer out a trade deal. Number 10 said today that the UK will ‘not just focus on discussing the future partnership with the EU’ after Brexit because it will be ‘free to hold trade discussions with countries across the world’.  The possibility of the government engaging in tandem talks with the EU and the US will delight Tory Brexiteers.

Fisheries

Express
EUROPEAN FISHERMEN fear Brexit could wipe out the Falkland Islands’ £200million squid fishing industry and trigger a massive dispute between EU nations, if Boris Johnson fails to agree a free trade agreement with the Brussels bloc. Currently, EU fishermen travel thousands of miles to the waters of the Falkland Islands to catch a particular species of squid, known as Loligo. But fishermen now fear Brexit could jeopardise the multimillion-pound industry and harm thousands of jobs in the islands and across the EU.

Budget

Guardian
Sajid Javid has pledged to use his first budget to kickstart a decade of renewal for the economy after announcing 11 March as the date for the delayed set-piece event. The chancellor said his package would focus on unleashing Britain’s potential after the country’s departure from the EU at the end of this month. It is understood that Javid will announce a shake-up of the way the Treasury allocates investment in an attempt to even up spending between the regions. The chancellor also plans to set up a taskforce designed to make his department an engine of economic change.

Sky News
The chancellor says his delayed budget will be on 11 March and “spread opportunity to those left behind”. Speaking on a visit to Manchester, Sajid Javid signalled the government would press ahead with its election manifesto pledge to loosen the purse strings following a decade of austerity. The spending spree, he said, would be focused on the Midlands and the North – rewarding voters who ditched decades of loyal Labour support to hand the Conservatives a large parliamentary majority in December’s vote.

Labour Party

Telegraph
Labour moderates have accused the party of handing pro-Corbyn candidate Rebecca Long Bailey a “huge advantage” in the leadership contest amid a row over access to party membership data.  As the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn begins on Tuesday, Labour officials are facing a mounting backlash from MPs over the decision to deny candidates access to supporters’ details until mid-February.  Ms Long Bailey officially announced her candidacy in Tribune magazine on Monday night.

Express
MODERATE Labour MPs fear Jeremy Corbyn loyalists could sway the leadership contest in favour of a left-wing candidate when the rules are announced later today. Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) will meet today to officially outline the timetable for the contest to succeed Mr Corbyn. Members of the NEC who could influence the regulations for the contest include Jon Lansman, the founder of the hard-left group Momentum. Mr Lansman is a known supporter of Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey.

Independent
Rebecca Long Bailey has announced her candidacy for the Labour leadership pledging to continue the work started by Jeremy Corbyn and “go to war with the political establishment”. Seen as a continuity candidate, the shadow business secretary must overcome scepticism inside the party rooted in its crushing defeat by the Tories in the recent general election, which many blamed on Mr Corbyn. Launching her campaign in the democratic socialist magazine Tribune, Ms Long Bailey said that “with the climate crisis spiralling and the far right on the march, we must regroup for the struggles ahead”.

Mail
Labour supporters who are not full party members will have to pay £25 to be able to vote for Jeremy Corbyn‘s successor.  The party’s ruling national executive committee made the announcement yesterday, setting the fee for those to become registered supporters in time to vote in the leadership contest.  The registered supporter scheme was first introduced in 2015, the election that Mr Corbyn triumphed in.  It allows supporters who aren’t full party members to vote for the next Labour leader. In 2015, the fee was £3 and 106,000 people signed up to help propel Mr Corbyn to victory.

Foreign aid

Mail
The foreign aid department will escape the axe as Boris Johnson scales back his proposed Whitehall shake-up, the Mail can reveal. Plans for a radical overhaul that would have seen a raft of departments created, merged or scrapped have been curtailed. Instead the Prime Minister will largely concentrate on improving performance in the existing ministries. The Department for International Development is expected to be given a reprieve and will not now be merged with the Foreign Office.

Crossrail

Guardian
London transport authorities do not expect the £18bn Crossrail line to open before autumn 2021, in the latest delay to Europe’s largest infrastructure project. The capital’s transport commissioner said the latest working assumption was that the central section of the Elizabeth line, as Crossrail will be known, will start operating between September and December next year. “We’ve looked at a delay until the later stages of 2021, in terms of our business planning assumption,” Mike Brown said. “The assumption we’ve made is, I suppose, at the pessimistic end. But it’s the pragmatic end.”

Sun
THE launch of Crossrail has been delayed until late next year, transport bosses have revealed. The line from Berkshire to Essex, via central London, was originally due to open in December 2018, but repeated delays have pushed it back. TfL commissioner Mike Brown yesterday told the London Assembly that services won’t start until at least September 2021. He added: “What we’ve looked at is a delay to the later stages of 2021 in terms of our business planning assumption. “The assumption we’ve made is, I suppose, at the pessimistic end.”

Police

Telegraph
The chances of police catching and successfully prosecuting car thieves has fallen almost five-fold in just two years, an analysis of force data reveals. Only one in 400 (0.25 per cent) vehicle crimes where the offenders broke into or stole them resulted in jail, a fine, community sentence or caution in 2019. In most, the case was closed without a suspect being identified. That compares with 1.1 per cent of the 458,500 vehicle crimes in 2017 which resulted in convictions or sentences and 0.8 per cent of the 467,800 offences in 2018.

Breitbart
Police officers in the United Kingdom are spending time and resources on logging tens of thousands of “hate incidents” every year, even though the offences are not crimes. Over the past five years, police in England and Wales have recorded over 87,000 ‘non-crime hate incidents’, using the same system that logs real crimes, the result of which can lead to the offences appearing on an individual’s background check despite not committing a crime. The figures, which were obtained under a Freedom of Information request by The Telegraph, come as the number of criminal offences for which someone has been charged has fallen to its lowest level recorded, down to 7.8 per cent from 15.5 per cent in 2015.

Mail
Police are teaming up with universities to stop county lines gangs infiltrating campuses to sell drugs. Officers have already caught some criminals signing up for courses as a front. They also fear the gangs are recruiting hard-up students on the promise of making money.  Jon Aspinall of North Wales Police said students have been found with ‘large quantities of drugs and cash’. The force has now assigned a community support officer to Bangor University to root out offenders.

Pets on planes

Sun
BRITISH Airways has banned dogs from being carried as cargo after airline staff found a pooch stuck in a crate classified as too small following a flight. Bosses have axed the service — for which it charges up to £700 — and ordered an investigation into the rule breach after the animal was discovered in the container at Heathrow. The move could hit parent company International Airlines Group. Its handling division, IAG Cargo, deals with dog transportation to Britain. It could also embarrass BA, which has partnered with wildlife charity Born Free to draw up measures to help customers avoid holidays that could promote cruelty of animals.

Iraq

Mail
Boris Johnson today backed America’s right to ‘self-defence’ as the fallout from Donald Trump’s killing of Qassem Soleimani escalated. The PM’s official spokesman refused to criticise the dramatic drone strike despite threats from Tehran that UK forces could be ‘collateral damage’ in reprisals. But Downing Street did caution that attacks on cultural sites – an idea Mr Trump has mooted – could break international law.  And the government has again appealed for Iraq not to expel British and US troops, pointing out that they are in the country to combat ISIS.

Independent
Boris Johnson has spoken out against Donald Trump’s threat to bomb 52 Iranian cultural sites if the crisis escalates, in a rare crack in the transatlantic alliance. “There are international conventions in place that prevent the destruction of cultural heritage,” the prime minister’s spokesperson said. The warning comes as Mr Johnson prepares to convene a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) on Tuesday with senior ministers, officials and figures from the intelligence agencies into the escalating tensions with Tehran.

Morning Star
AS PRESIDENT Donald Trump threatened to impose severe sanctions on Iraq after its parliament voted to demand US troops based there leave the country in the wake of the Soleimani assassination. He insisted that US forces would not be leaving the country, despite Sunday’s non-binding vote, which was initiated by the parliament’s Shia Muslim bloc, traditionally close to Iran. “We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it,” Mr Trump said. The belligerent billionaire also promised to punish Iraq if it pressed ahead with plans to shut down US military bases.

Mail
Reports Monday that the U.S. would soon withdraw all its forces from Iraq were turned on their heads minutes later when U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters there were no plans to pull up stakes. ‘There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq, period,’ Esper said, adding that he and his staff were ‘trying to figure out’ the meaning of a letter signed by a brigadier general that suggested the opposite. ‘There are no plans to leave,’ he emphasized, suggesting discussion of a massive troop movement could be merely a signal that forces are being repositioned inside Iraq’s borders.

ITV News
The US will not pull its troops out of Iraq the country’s Defence Secretary has said, despite a letter from a US general there appearing to suggest it would. The confusion came amid threats to American forces after the US killed top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday. The document appeared to suggest the US was preparing to pull troops out of Iraq in response to a vote by the Iraqi parliament over the weekend. The draft said troops would be “repositioning over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement”, and warned of an increase in helicopter travel around the Green Zone (the centre of the international presence) in Baghdad.

Times
The US defence secretary said there were no plans to withdraw troops from Iraq despite the leak yesterday of a letter from an American general advising Baghdad of a “repositioning” of forces before “movement out of Iraq”. Mark Esper, the defence secretary, said that he was aware of the letter sent by Brigadier-General William Seely, head of Task Force Iraq, informing his Iraqi counterpart that US forces would “respect your sovereign decision to order our departure”.

Sun
THE US military is NOT withdrawing its troops from Iraq, officials said after a draft memo announcing a “pullout” was accidentally sent out. The confusion comes just one day after the Iraqi parliament voted to expel US troops from the Middle Eastern nation. Earlier today a letter addressed to Abdul Amir, deputy commander of Iraq Joint Operations Command, said that America will be “repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks” as requested. Defense chiefs quickly came out saying that US troops were not leaving the country, and that the letter was a draft and was not meant to be published.

Telegraph
The United States was moving troops out of Baghdad on Monday night following a request from the Iraqi government. An official letter said the US-led task force was preparing for “onward movement” over “the coming days and weeks”, in what was seen as a conciliatory step following the assassination of Iran’s most senior general by drone strike in the Iraqi capital last week. It comes as Jeremy Hunt, the former foreign secretary, writes in The Daily Telegraph that the killing of Qassim Soleimani has opened the “biggest ever cracks” in the Western alliance, after No 10 rebuked Donald Trump over his threats against Tehran.

Times
Britain is stepping up contingency plans to evacuate military personnel and civilians from Iraq amid growing fears of reprisal attacks from Iran. The Ministry of Defence dispatched about 20 senior military planners and liaison officers to the embassy in Baghdad over the weekend, The Times understands. Defence sources believe that the risk of a retaliatory assault will rise today after three days of national mourning to mark the death of Qasem Soleimani, the senior Iranian commander who was killed in a US airstrike at Baghdad airport in the early hours of Friday.

Times
Britain’s electricity network has been put on alert for cyberattacks by Iran in retaliation for the killing of its senior general by the United States. National Grid, the company responsible for keeping the lights on, emailed all employees on Sunday to urge them to watch out for suspicious emails or unusual behaviour. The email, which has been seen by The Times, read: “Iranian authorities and sympathisers are expected to retaliate, and government agencies are asking operators of critical national infrastructure and their employees to remain vigilant.”

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