Whitehall officials believe the UK may need to make big payments to the EU to secure preferential trading terms after Brexit, BBC Newsnight has learned. During the EU referendum, Vote Leave claimed leaving the EU could save the UK £350m a week in contributions. But an unnamed cabinet minister has told Newsnight that the UK may end up “paying quite a lot” of that money to secure access to the single market. The government said it would not give a “running commentary” on negotiations. The UK’s contributions to the EU became one of the most contentious issues in the EU referendum campaign after Vote Leave pledged to repatriate £350m a week – its estimate of the UK’s gross weekly contributions to the EU. This is reduced by subsidies paid to the UK and by the UK budget rebate.
A number of members of parliament who opposed a British exit from the European Union in June’s referendum would now back a start of formal divorce proceedings from the bloc – provided parliament gets to decide at all, a Reuters poll showed. Results of the online survey opened the possibility that Prime Minister Theresa May might be able to win a vote in what has been a predominantly pro-EU parliament, although her government remains determined to prevent such a vote from happening. May has said she will trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty – which begins an initial two-year period during which Britain must negotiate the terms of its exit – by the end of March next year without giving MPs a vote.
Theresa May will allow Conservative MPs to back a Labour call for Parliament to “properly scrutinise” the Government’s Brexit strategy. The move is seen as an attempt by the prime minister to see off a backbench rebellion and appease Tories who are said to be increasingly unhappy at being denied the chance to vote on the plan . A Labour source had said there was a “very real possibility” that rebellious Tories could back the party’s motion in a Commons debate today, which calls for MPs to be given proper scrutiny before Article 50 of the EU treaties is triggered. But Mrs May has now tabled an amendment which will allow Tories to back the text of Labour’s motion but adds caveats insisting that the EU referendum result must be respected and that the Government’s negotiating strategy should not be undermined.
The Government has tabled a surprise amendment to prevent rebellious Conservative MPs voting with the Opposition for extra Parliamentary scrutiny on the Brexit process. In a move described by Opposition sources as a “huge climbdown”, the Government tried to persuade several Tory MPs to refuse to back Labour’s Opposition Day motion, which called for Parliament to be able to scrutinise a plan before Article 50 is triggered. A number of Tory MPs – including some backers of the Leave campaign – are deeply concerned about Theresa May’s announcement that Article 50 will be triggered by the end of March and, in particular, the clear signal that Britain is leaving the single market.
David Davis has accused Treasury officials of trying to “undermine” Brexit negotiations as part of a “desperate strategy” to keep Britain in the Single Market. It today emerged that leaked draft Cabinet papers warned that if Britain leaves the Single Market without a new deal it will cost the Treasury £66billion in tax revenues. Mr Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, is understood to believe that the the warning is part of a “succession of treasury briefings that are damaging negotiations”. Other ministers accused the Treasury of putting Britain’s economic stability at risk by “talking down the economy” at a time when the value of the pound is plummeting. It yesterday emerged that draft Cabinet papers include figures based on the same forecasts used by George Osborne during the referendum, which were branded “project fear” by eurosceptic MPs.
The German federal migrant agency has admitted that they are letting in migrants even when they have full knowledge that the passports and documentation they carry have been forged. A new report suggests that the German agency in control of migration, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), knew that passports used by migrants who flooded into the country last year were fake – but let the migrants attempt to claim asylum anyway. Die Welt reports that BAMF had processed some 217,465 passports, birth certificates, and driver’s licenses of asylum seekers and that 2,273 of these documents had been forged. According to German law, the penalty for forging documentation – especially passports and travel visas – is five years in prison. So far, no migrants have been arrested.
JEREMY CORBYN has insisted Britain must reduce migrants numbers, in a statement which contradicts that of his Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott just hours earlier. As the Labour leader faced his party MPs for the first time since being re-elected, he seemed keen to heal the divide amongst his shadow cabinet, appearing to take a different position on immigration. A spokesman for Mr Corbyn told journalists outside the meeting the party leader does want to reduce the number of migrants, by making it illegal for firms to exploit foreign staff by offering them low wages, and called for more investment in training British workers. He said: “The case he was making during the referendum campaign was for decisive action against the undercutting of wages and the exploitation of migrant workers. If you take effective action… you will reduce numbers.” The U-turn came just a fortnight after he announced that he had no plans to control immigration in a speech made at the Labour party conference, with his spokesman later adding that he “was not concerned about numbers”.
Theresa May’s Government is “not backing away” from building the High Speed 2 rail link between London and the North, the Transport Secretary will insist. Chris Grayling will say Britain needs the link “now more than ever” as the country’s Victorian rail network struggles to cope with population growth. He will tell a HS2 conference: “We’re not backing away from HS2. The case is as strong as ever. “We need this railway. And if we’re going to build it, let’s make it state-of-the-art, fit for the decades of growth ahead. “So that in 2033, we no longer have a rail network with a Victorian heart but a network with an Elizabethan heart, able to deliver everything we expect of a 21st century transport system.”
High Speed 2 is set to be given the final go-ahead. Despite growing opposition from Tory MPs, the Government will today say it is fully behind the £55billion rail scheme. Chris Grayling will declare Britain needs HS2 ‘more than ever’. The Transport Secretary says it will create jobs, boost capacity and link the country together. But furious MPs last night pledged to carry on opposing a scheme they dismissed as a white elephant. Experts warn HS2 could cost as much as £90billion by the time it opens. The shock resignation of project boss Simon Kirby last month led to speculation that Theresa May would alter the route to save money, or even ditch the project.
Scottish ministers are under pressure from university and student leaders to guarantee that students from other EU countries will get free places at Scottish universities next year. Nicola Sturgeon’s government has been accused by universities of dragging its feet over the status of up to 13,500 EU students who could apply for Scottish courses in 2017, by failing to confirm they would still get free tuition. The first minister has won plaudits for taking a welcoming stance to EU citizens after June’s surprise referendum vote to leave, including protecting places for those EU students who started at Scottish universities this autumn. But the UK government has moved faster to confirm that grants and loans for EU students taking places at English universities from autumn 2017 would be protected beyond the point the UK leaves the EU , now expected in summer 2019.
As Britain sets sail in uncharted waters on the lookout for post-Brexit trade deals, members of parliament and a former diplomat have earmarked two key weapons: the Duchess of Cambridge and a new royal yacht. Following the vote in June for Britain to leave the European Union, and with the government facing the tricky task of securing new trade agreements, some 100 MPs from Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party have called for ministers to back the commissioning of a new royal yacht. “I think we have to ask ourselves what sort of Britain we want to live in and what we can do … to make Britain great again,” said lawmaker Jake Berry as he put forward a motion in parliament on Tuesday calling for the reintroduction of the Royal Yacht Britannia.
There are “no plans” to commission a royal yacht to spearhead the UK’s post-Brexit trade talks, a minister says. Mark Garnier said he would welcome a costed business proposal but it was “very unlikely” taxpayers’ money would be spent investigating the scheme. Several Tory MPs have called for a new, publicly-owned yacht or for the last one, Britannia, to be brought back. Mr Garnier ruled out recommissioning Britannia, which was taken out of service in 1997. “Clearly it’s well past its active life,” he said. The old yacht, used to transport the royal family and to promote UK trade and industry, was turned into a floating tourist attraction in Leith, Edinburgh. Conservative MP Jake Berry, who has led the royal yacht campaign in Parliament, secured a debate on his plan in Westminster Hall.
TORY MPs today called for part of Britain’s ballooning foreign aid budget to be spent on a new royal yacht to help boost post-Brexit trade. The Government was urged to back the commissioning of a new vessel, or reintroduce the Royal Yacht Britannia, in order to help ministers’ with their bid to secure free trade deals around the world once the UK leaves the EU. Debating a motion in Parliament calling for the reintroduction of Britannia, Mark Francois – one of around 100 Conservative MPs to back the call – suggested the Government’s foreign aid budget could be used to help fund a new royal yacht. The Rayleigh and Wickford MP insisted there are “very clear advantages a new royal yacht could provide in terms of fostering trade and international relations” and suggested it “might be appropriate if a number of Government departments” shared the running costs of the vessel. He said: “Not least the Department for International Development who have a rising budget.”
Plans for a new royal yacht have been scuppered as the Government insisted it is “very, very unlikely” taxpayers’ money will be used to investigate any privately-backed proposals. It comes after a group of Conservative MPs attempted to resurrect the Royal ship Britannia, which acted as the Queen’s private yacht between 1954 and 1997 and hosted trade talks in the early 1990s before being axed by Tony Blair in 1997. The antiquated vessel is currently docked in Scotland. Speaking at a parliamentary debate in Westminster Hall, which occurred at the same time as a debate on the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Mark Garnier, the international trade minister, made clear the Government had “no plans and has had no plans” to commission a replacement for the existing Britannia. “Clearly it’s well past its active life,” he added. But the minister also gave the unusual cause a ray of hope, suggesting he would be “very keen” to see a business proposal from the former Conservative minister Sir Gerald Howarth. “No-one is trying to stop you bringing one forward,” Mr Garnier added.
Russian politicians and officials with children studying in the West have been told to bring them home to the “Fatherland”, local media is reporting. They have also been told to recall any older relatives – such as parents – living in foreign countries, sources claim. The worrying development – which comes after Putin suddenly cancelled a visit to France – applies to ALL state employees. Workers were reportedly told to pull their children out of school immediately, even if it was in the middle of term. The edict applies to administration staff, regional administrators, lawmakers of all levels and employees of public corporations. Anyone who fails to act will put their chances of promotion at risk.