MPs have been promised the chance to vote on Theresa May’s deal with Brussels six months before Britain leaves the EU in a concession to get legislation through the Commons. Tory MPs claimed the change, hammered out between Downing Street and Tory rebels in the 48 hours leading to a vote yesterday evening, gives them greater power to influence the agreement to be struck between the prime minister and her European counterparts. The final deal will include decisions on Britain’s level of access to the single market and customs union. No 10 was forced into the move to avoid defeat at the hands of Labour MPs and Tory rebels.
Tory MPs staged their first Article 50 rebellion tonight as they rejected a government ‘climbdown’ over Brexit. Seven of Theresa May’s MPs voted against her to try and get Parliament a “meaningful” vote on her final deal with the EU.They were Heidi Allen, Ken Clarke, Bob Neill, Claire Perry, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Andrew Tyrie. Others including George Osborne and arch-Remainer Nicky Morgan sat the vote out – with Ms Morgan spotted gesturing dramatically with Tory whips. But it was not nearly enough to stop the Prime Minister blocking the bid, by a margin of 33 MPs – including six Labour rebels who defied Jeremy Corbyn. Ministers had offered a supposed climbdown by saying MPs would vote before Britain’s final Brexit deal “concludes” in 2019. Yet it fell apart when government said it would leave with no deal anyway – not renegotiate – if it gets rejected by MPs.
Britain could reap a Brexit dividend of up to £8billion, experts suggested yesterday. In its annual Green Budget, the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned Brexit could have a negative impact on the economy – depending on the trade deal the UK secures with Brussels. But it also pointed towards a significant potential boost for the public finances. It said that if Britain were to leave the EU and cease all contributions overnight, the government would have around £13.4billion extra to spend. Ministers have suggested many of the programmes funded by the EU – such as agriculture payments – are likely to continue in the short term. But even after those are subtracted, ministers would still be left with around £8billion extra, the IFS suggested. Thomas Pope, Research Economist at the IFS said: ‘There is actually one quite positive risk on the spending front.
A key Conservative rebel has hailed a Government climbdown to give MPs a decisive vote if there is no Brexit deal – even as Labour insisted it was virtually worthless. Neil Carmichael told The Independent he was delighted that the vote will now be staged before the European Parliament has its say on the outcome of the negotiations, suggesting a threatened revolt is off. Crucially, he argued ministers were also guaranteeing a vote even if Theresa May emerges from the Article 50 talks with no deal at all, the key demand of the rebels. But Labour, which initially welcomed the “important concession”, quickly decided it fell far short of the “meaningful vote” it is demanding. Angry Labour MPs turned on Brexit minister David Jones after it quickly emerged that the Commons would still be left with a ‘take it or leave it’ choice, in 2019. To ‘leave it’ would mean Britain crashing out of the EU with no agreement at all – risking an economic slump, they argued
Theresa May has faced down a Conservative rebellion over Brexit in the House of Commons, rejecting calls for MPs to be given the power to send her back to the negotiating table if they do not like her proposed divorce deal from the EU. The government said it would only let MPs have a vote on May’s final Brexit deal on a “take it or leave it basis”, despite Labour, the Scottish National party and some Tories demanding greater power to order a rethink after two years of talks. A string of MPs branded the offer of a final vote a “con” and a “Hobson’s choice”, aware that a refusal to back the final deal struck by May would leave Britain reliant on damaging tariffs set by the World Trade Organisation. But the Commons still voted 326 to 293 to approve the government’s plan without amendment, with just seven Conservative rebels voting against their party and a few more abstaining.
A top official of the European Union’s (EU) highest court says Member States must grant visas to persons who are at risk of degrading treatment. Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi said on Tuesday that EU member states must issue visas on humanitarian grounds where there’s reason to believe that a refusal would “expose persons seeking international protection to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.” “The presence or absence of ties between the person concerned and the requested Member State is irrelevant.” he added. The Advocate General’s comments follow a complaint against Belgium by a Syrian family who applied to the Belgian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, for visas in October last year. Maintaining that the security situation in Syria was deteriorating, the family applied for visas with limited territorial validity which would enable them to travel to Belgium and seek asylum.
The EU faces a looming crisis which could threaten the sustainability of the eurozone as the International Monetary Fund has warned Greece’s debts are on an “explosive” path despite years of attempted austerity and economic reforms. Global financiers at the IMF are increasingly unwilling to fund endless bailouts for the eurozone’s most troubled country, passing more of the burden onto the EU – at a time when Germany does not want to keep sending cash to Athens. The assessment opens up a fresh split with Europe over how to handle Greece’s massive public debts, as the IMF called on Europe to provide “significant debt relief” to Greece – despite Greece’s EU creditors ruling out any further relief before the current rescue programme expires in 2018.Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Eurogroup President repeated that position last night, saying there would be no Greek debt forgiveness and dismissing the IMF assessment of Greece’s growth prospects as overly pessimistic.
GREECE is in urgent need of ANOTHER bailout as its national debt heads down an “explosive path” that threatens the entire Eurozone. The International Monetary Fund has warned that the country is facing a new debt crisis in July when it is due to repay some 7 billion euros despite years of austerity measures. The IMF has called on Europe to provide “significant debt relief” to Greece – despite the country’s creditors ruling out any further rescue deals until 2018. Greek GDP grew by just 0.4 per cent last year – and economists expect growth in the coming years will be too low to repay its huge 86billion-euro bailout programme which was agreed in 2015. The country is in a dire situation – with unemployment at 23 per cent and reforms which sparked protests in the streets. And using more taxpayer’s money to provide debt relief to Greece will cause uproar across Europe – especially in Germany where Angela Merkel is fighting for re-election. But there are claims that it could rise to a whopping 275 per cent by 2060 if the crisis isn’t tackled now.
The International Monetary Fund has warned Greece’s debts are on an “explosive” path, in the latest blow to the European project. Despite years of austerity and economic reforms, Greece cannot dig itself out of its financial hole all the time it is tied into the disastrous Euro currency. The IMF called on EU leaders to provide “significant debt relief” to Greece, something its ruling Syriza party has been calling for since 2015. Germany blocked any discussions of writing off Greek debts until 2018, leaving the country lingering in a state of flux for three years. With Angela Merkel losing ground to other parties, she is unlikely to budge on the issue, as most Germans are against their tax money going towards another Greek bailout. Perhaps more countries need to leave before the EU finally admits the Euro isn’t working? Come on in folks, the water’s lovely!
A DEFIANT eurocrat today launched an extraordinary defence of the struggling euro, describing the project as a “clear success” and insisting it is not responsible for the Greek crisis. In a jaw-dropping interview which is bound to infuriate Greek voters European Central Bank (ECB) board member Benoit Coeuré effectively washed Brussels’ hands of the country’s desperate situation. He insisted that Greece’s economic problems are “not related to its euro membership” and defended the EU’s decision to admit the country into the single currency which has been heavily criticised. Frenchman Mr Coeuré also contentiously claimed that the euro has brought the greatest benefit for low income families, a statement which may stick in the throat of southern Europe’s tens of millions of young unemployed.
BRUSSELS today defiantly insisted Britain will continue to honour its EU spending commitments after leaving the bloc and compared the country to someone who wants to leave the pub early without buying their round. Eurocrats refused to be drawn on the size of the final bill which will be presented to Theresa May, which could be as high as £60 billion, but made clear the UK will not be allowed to go without settling up. EU Commission chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas told journalists individual member states are all making “calculations” about how much money they reckon Britain will owe them by the time Brexit comes around. And he said that any spending commitments involving UK money that the EU announces between now and spring 2019 will have to be honoured in full even if their results will not benefit British citizens.
There has been a 30 per cent rise in the number of women in Germany who have suffered female genital mutilation (FGM) in just three years, as migration from regions where it is common has increased by 40 per cent. The shocking findings, made in a study by the Family Affairs Ministry, found there to be 48,000 victims of the gruesome practice living in the country – an increase of 30 per cent since 2014. FGM is common in some Muslim and African societies, where it is used to suppress and control female sexuality. The government document directly linked its rise in Germany to immigration, explaining: “According to the study, the immigration of women and girls from countries in which female genital mutilation is particularly widespread increased by 40 per cent between the end of 2014 and the middle of 2016. The number of affected persons thus rose by almost 30 per cent.”
The Scottish parliament has voted for a symbolic motion rejecting the UK government’s expected decision to trigger article 50 and begin the process of leaving the EU. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Green party overwhelmingly backed the motion put forward by the ruling Scottish National party. There was initially unease among Labour MSPs about supporting the motion, because the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has repeatedly linked disputes over the shape of a Brexit deal with an increased chance of a snap second referendum on independence. Those concerns eased after Sturgeon dropped her plans to put down a more formal legislative consent motion opposing article 50, because a supreme court ruling last month said Holyrood did not have the legal authority to reject it. In the event, three Labour MSPs voted alongside the Scottish Conservatives against the Scottish government motion, effectively adopting Jeremy Corbyn’s formal position at Westminster that Labour should not obstruct or thwart the triggering of article 50.
The Scottish Parliament has voted by 90 to 34 to oppose the UK government starting the Brexit process. The Supreme Court ruled last month that there was no legal need for Holyrood to give its consent to the triggering of Article 50. But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would let MSPs have a say, despite it being largely symbolic. Ms Sturgeon predicted the vote would be one of the most significant in the Scottish Parliament since devolution. The SNP tried to block the UK government’s Brexit bill last week. Only one of Scotland’s 59 MPs – Scottish Secretary David Mundell – supported the bill, but it ultimately passed its first parliamentary hurdle by 498 votes to 114. The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill returned to the Commons on Monday, when MPs began detailed scrutiny of the legislation. MSPs voted to back a Scottish government motion in the Scottish Parliament stating that the bill should not proceed.
These are the worrying scenes in the A&E unit of one of the country’s top-performing hospitals. At one point last week there were 95 seriously ill patients waiting to be seen, but only 33 beds. Mothers sat on the floor with babies on their laps while the elderly queued up on trolleys and in wheelchairs. Managers at the Royal Blackburn hospital in Lancashire have even resorted to appointing designated ‘corridor nurses’ to take care of all the patients waiting without a bed. Doctors say they are ‘taking too many risks’ by sending patients home early, and nurses report conditions as ‘dangerous’ and ‘frightening’. The images were filmed by the BBC last Sunday and Monday after it was granted rare access by the hospital’s chief executive Kevin McGee as part of the corporation’s week of special coverage on the NHS. It is unusual for a media organisation to be given fly-on-the-wall facilities.
A government plan to treat more people in the community has failed to free up hospital beds or save money, a report by the National Audit Office has warned. The NAO said the Department of Health and NHS England were both over-optimistic about what the Better Care Fund for England could achieve, with planned savings of £511m in the first year of fund never realised. Although the fund – which was set up with £5.3 billion of NHS and local authority funding in 2015 – has joined up health and social care, it has not led to the expected reduction in hospital workload. In fact, hospital admissions have increased. According to the report: “Local areas planned to reduce emergency admissions by 106,000, saving £171 million. However, in 2015/16, the number of emergency admissions increased by 87,000 compared with 2014/15, costing a total of £311 million more than planned.”
INTEGRATION of health and social care services by the government is failing to save money or stem the rise in hospital admission numbers, the National Audit Office (NAO) said yesterday. The Department of Health and NHS England had been “overoptimistic” about what the Better Care Fund could actually achieve, the public-spending watchdog reported. The fund was set up with £5.3 billion of NHS and local authority cash in 2015 with the aim of saving £511 million in the first year. This did not happen and hospital patient numbers increased said NAO. The NHS is in the crisis due to record numbers of delayed discharges — patients fit to go home can’t leave because cash-strapped council care services are unable to look after them. The NAO said there was “no compelling evidence” to show that integrating services “leads to sustainable financial savings or reduced hospital activity.”
Government plans to treat more patients in the community are not easing pressure on NHS hospitals or saving money, says the National Audit Office. It looked at progress in England following the introduction of a £5.3bn Better Care Fund to help local authorities invest in services to keep patients out of hospital. It says in its first year, the fund has helped join up health and social care. But it hasn’t led to the expected reduction in hospital workload. The Department of Health said it was too soon to judge the Fund’s impact.
Jeremy Corbyn has given his inner circle of MPs the date he will depart as leader of the party, it has been claimed. The Labour leader, who has faced an embarrassing week in the Commons after shadow cabinet ministers defied him, has apparently announced a ‘departure date’. The claim has been made in a series of tweets on Wednesday morning from a social affairs editor in a Labour stronghold. Jennifer Williams, social affairs editor of the Manchester Evening News, wrote: ‘Am told Corbyn has given a departure date to his close circle. Hence the frenzy.’ She quickly adds: ‘Single sourced, I would add. Just to be total disclosure.’ But she then stands up her claim further, adding: ‘Third source agrees there’s definite manoeuvring. Expectation that corbyn is going. Not necesarily straight away, but going.’
Jeremy Corbyn has issued a second three-line whip, ordering his MPs to vote for the Government’s Brexit bill at its final stage in the Commons. Various Labour sources confirmed the decision to The Independent after a meeting of the party’s shadow Cabinet on Tuesday. It now paves the way for Theresa May to trigger the formal exit process. The decision to impose the three-line whip – the strictest possible instruction – means that certain members of Mr Corbyn’s shadow Cabinet will also be facing a difficult decision, especially those from areas with considerable proportions of Remain voters. Clive Lewis, the shadow Business Secretary, has indicated he could resign from his position if the party’s amendments to the Bill fall flat in the Commons. “If at the end of that process the bill before us is overwhelmingly a Tory hard cliff-edge – a Trumpian Brexit – I am prepared to break the whip and I am prepared to walk from the shadow Cabinet,” he told his constituents on Friday.
JEREMY Corbyn has warned frontbenchers Diane Abbott and Clive Lewis that they must back him on supporting the Government’s Brexit Bill or they will be forced to resign from his Shadow Cabinet. The Labour leader confirmed this morning that he would be imposing another three-line whip on his MPs in the next crunch Brexit vote tomorrow. He will again order his MPs to vote with the Tories in its final Commons hurdle – which will lead to Theresa May triggering Article 50 next month. The vote on the third reading of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill will take place on Wednesday night. It is set to be another chaotic week for Labour after 47 MPs defied Mr Corbyn last week and voted AGAINST triggering Article 50. More could join them this week if Labour’s amendments to the Bill fail to get off the ground.
The Government’s Article 50 Bill is set to complete its passage through the Commons unamended, with Jeremy Corbyn facing a potential rebellion by some of his closest allies. The Labour leader has ordered his MPs to vote for the Bill, but left-wingers Diane Abbott and Clive Lewis are likely to have to resign from the Shadow Cabinet or be sacked if they defy a three-line whip. Ms Abbott, a close ally of Mr Corbyn’s, failed to turn up for the first vote on the Bill last week, saying she had a migraine sparking suggestions she had come to an agreement with the leader. Speaking to Sky News this morning, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer repeatedly refused to be drawn on whether Ms Abbott would turn up for the vote, resigned or defy the whip and be sacked.
DIANE Abbott has reportedly been warned to back Brexit or face being kicked out of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet after the Labour leader finally lost patience with his long-term ally. While the Labour leader gave a lukewarm backing to the Remain campaign during the run-up to last June’s European Union referendum, he has now vowed to support the government. His three-line whip calling for Labour MPs to back this week’s Brexit bill reading, which will allow Theresa May to trigger Article 50 and formally begin exiting the bloc, however, faces opposition from a number of Labour rebels – including Ms Abbott. Sources within the party say this has infuriated Mr Corbyn, who has warned the Shadow Home Secretary her future in his shadow cabinet is on the line. A source said a fiery meeting had been held by the Parliamentary Labour Party today, where Ms Abbott was accused of trying to “dodge” the issue.
The Government’s new housing policies have been derided as “feeble” and “the bare minimum” by a wide range of groups after they failed to live up to promises of radical action. Earlier briefings to some journalists of a major policy shift failed to materialise in the White Paper, which was released on Tuesday by the communities secretary Sajid Javid. Though critics were not united in what policies they wanted to see from the Government, observers from across the political spectrum said the paper was a disappointment or “missed opportunity” to fix the crisis. The white paper contained mostly tweaks to the planning system, most notably a requirement for councils to keep an up-to-date local plan to meet housing demand. John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said the plan was “feeble beyond belief”. “Really, is this it? When the housing minister himself admits the Government’s record on housing is ‘feeble’ and ‘embarrassing’ we’d hoped for better. In fact we needed better,” he said in his response to the papers launch in the House of Commons.
The government has vowed to build more affordable houses and help people buy and rent, after admitting the current market is “broken”. The new housing strategy for England includes giving councils powers to pressurise developers to start building on land they own. Ministers also pledged to make renting more “family-friendly” with longer tenancies offered. Labour called the measures announced “feeble beyond belief”. The government says at least 250,000 new homes are needed each year to keep pace with demand and councils and developers need to “get real” to the scale of the challenge.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has made a robust and important speech on the dangers posed by Russian hacking. Moscow, he warned, was “weaponsing information” and trying to subvert democracies through its cyber attacks on Western institutions. There was also a piece of sabre-rattling: adversaries should know “there is a price to pay if they use cyber weapons,” he said. The information Sir Michael neglected to tell his audience was we are doing it too. Britain has put cyber warfare at the heart of its defence policy since 2011 when the Strategic Defence and Security Review set out plans to “develop, test and validate the use of cyber capabilities.” In 2013 Philip Hammond, the then Defence Secretary, said that in response to the “growing cyber threat” the UK was “developing a full spectrum military cyber capability, including a strike capability”.
US President Donald Trump will suffer an attack from Kim Jong-un on the same scale as 9/11, a Korean expert has chillingly warned. The North Korean dictator has repeatedly threatened to fire a nuclear missile at US heartland, causing death and destruction. And a Korean expert has revealed Kim is readying his attack for early in Trump’s time in administration. The Centre for Strategic and International Studies chairman Victor Cha told a House Foreign Affairs Committee a North Korean attack would be Donald Trump’s September 11 and it would define his presidential term. Nearly 3,000 people died after three planes were deliberately flown into the World Trade Centre and Pentagon in 2001. But the death toll would be much higher if a nuclear missile were to be detonated in the US.
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