Secrecy is damaging Theresa May’s preparations for triggering Article 50 and the Government’s plans for Brexit negotiations with the EU, top Whitehall experts say. New research by the Institute for Government suggests the Civil Service urgently needs to be told how to prepare for the negotiation process and the UK’s future outside the European Union. In a damning report, experts says the absence of a clear plan for Brexit and the desire for secrecy are hindering preparations for Article 50 and negotiations that will immediately follow. The report called Whitehall’s preparation for the UK’s exit from the EU claims Whitehall departments are not working consistently across the board to ensure policies and implementation plans are in place to avoid a “cliff edge” when the UK leaves the Union.
Theresa May will face renewed demands to set out her plans for leaving the EU in a formal white paper when she meets a deputation of more than a dozen Conservative MPs opposed to a hard Brexit on Wednesday. The prime minister is receiving the MPs in her parliamentary office after Downing Street was stung by the scale of the backbench rebellion over Brexit last week. Before last week’s vote, some of them had indicated they could vote with a Labour motion demanding a public plan for Brexit, forcing the government to concede and underlining the slim nature of May’s majority. The group has been characterised as the “new bastards” in reference to the anti-EU backbench rebels who haunted John Major in the 1990s. However, those planning to attend insisted they were not aiming to make trouble. Tensions over Brexit have been heightened within the party in recent days after an extraordinary public spat in which Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, was cut from the list of those planning to attend.
Theresa May must act now to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit, an influential Lords committee has said. In a report the peers argued the Government should give a “unilateral” pledge to guarantee their rights as it was the “morally right thing to do”. It comes after another report from a think tank also called on the Prime Minister to make the move, suggesting it was “morally” wrong not to. So far Ms May has said that she expects to take the step, but only as a part of a deal that would see the rights of British citizens confirmed in other EU states. Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, chairman of the House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee, said: “The Government is under a moral obligation to give a unilateral declaration immediately to safeguard the EU citizenship rights of all EU nationals in the UK when the UK withdraws from the EU.
Britain will need a transitional trade agreement with the European Union, and the government should set out plans for it before beginning formal divorce talks with the bloc, members of parliament’s upper house said on Tuesday. Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, beginning the two-year withdrawal period, by the end of March and wants to seek a unique deal with the EU rather replicate any existing third-country agreements. Banks and businesses have repeatedly argued the government should agree a transition period to avoid a damaging “cliff edge” or abrupt exit from the bloc before Britain has finalised its future trading terms.
The UK has a “moral” duty to guarantee the status of EU nationals living in the country ahead of negotiations over its exit, a group of peers has said. A Lords EU committee has called for an immediate “unilateral undertaking” that EU nationals can continue to live, work and study in the UK after Brexit. It said failure to do this would have a severe impact on migrants’ rights. Ministers say they expect this to happen but need equivalent guarantees for UK citizens on the Continent. The question of what will happen to the estimated 2.9 million citizens of other EU countries who have made their home in the UK in recent years is one of the most controversial arising from the UK’s vote to leave the EU in June’s referendum.
European Union nationals living in the United Kingdom should immediately be guaranteed the right to stay following Brexit, Theresa May has been told by peers. In a report published today, the House of Lords EU committee said the government had a “moral” obligation to change its position. The prime minister has said she will not guarantee the right of EU citizens to remain in the UK until British citizens currently living in the union receive the same pledge from EU capitals. May’s position was condemned earlier this week by a cross-party group of MPs who said she should show “goodwill” and “make the first move”.
Hundreds of illegal Iranian migrants including suspected Islamist terrorists, were smuggled into Britain by a gang selling fake passports for up to £12,500, Greek investigators have said. Greek and British police smashed a people-smuggling ring, arresting 33 suspects who were allegedly involved in moving migrants from Iran to Europe. They targeted Iranians due to their relative wealth, selling them high-quality false passports allowing them to catch flights from Athens to the UK, Spain and France. The gang was eventually caught by a joint operation between Britain’s National Crime Agency, Greece’s Organised Crime Unit and Europol, resulting in 24 arrests in Athens and nine in Glasgow, Manchester and Northampton. Officials have not ruled out “credible suspicions” that the network may have allowed terrorists into Europe by providing them with doctored documents. One of the gang members arrested was a suspected Islamist, giving rise to fears the group may have helped supporters of Islamic State enter Britain.
A group of suspected migrants were rescued from a lorry’s refrigerated trailer after calling police for help on the M25, officers have said. Surrey Police said 10 adults and three children were removed from the HGV in Chertsey on Tuesday afternoon. The force said it received calls from multiple people inside the vehicle. An officer spotted a lorry matching the description given by one of the callers and it was stopped. The people were checked over by the South East Coast Ambulance Service before being detained on suspicion of illegally entering the UK, the force said. The adults were detained in Dover, Kent, while the children were placed in the care of social services.
Any interim deal between the UK and the EU should not be allowed to become “eternal”, according to a key figure in the negotiations. Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, said any “transitional arrangement” should have a strict time limit. A House of Lords report has warned of significant tariffs and other barriers to trade unless one is adopted. And Chancellor Philip Hammond has said an interim arrangement may be needed. But other ministers have reportedly expressed reservations in private and ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage told the BBC he feared talk of interim deals was part of “backsliding” and attempts to “delay” the Brexit process.
A POLISH immigrant raped a woman in a park after moving to the UK as a convicted killer. Michal Podlaszczyk, 32, arrived in Britain after being released from a 15-year jail sentence in his homeland. Despite his violent criminal history he was able to freely travel to the UK and set up home in Leicester. Two months after his release he raped a woman as she walked through a city park at 7.15am.He stole her bank card, mobile phone and cash and left her badly beaten. Podlaszczyk admitted rape, sexual touching, assault by penetration, causing actual bodily harm and robbery. While entering his pleas at Leicester Crown Court he slumped backwards into a chair in the dock, began gasping for breath and said through an interpreter: ”I’m not well.” He was remanded in custody by Judge Robert Brown pending sentencing in March.
A CONVICTED killer allowed into the UK raped a woman just months later. Michal Cezary Podlaszczyk was freed from a 15-year jail term in his native Poland last year. The 29-year-old, who had served around 12 years, moved to England and settled in Leicester. He raped the woman who was walking to work in the city’s Bede Park in October. Prosecutors have requested from Poland details of the killing when Podlaszczyk was 17. A second person is thought to have been hurt during the murder or manslaughter, Leicester crown court was told.
The European Commission proposed new rules on Tuesday on what social benefits governments must pay to citizens from other EU states – a key for people concerned about immigration and “benefit tourism”. The package of measures, delayed by nearly a year as Brussels hoped to avoid Britain voting to leave the EU, is designed to clarify rights of EU expatriate workers and states’ obligations on unemployment benefits and social security. The new rules will confirm a series of EU court decisions that backed mainly rich northwestern states in rejecting “benefit tourism” by poor Europeans who did not look for, or find, work after arriving.
BRUSSELS bigwigs have this afternoon passed a controversial report dubbed the ‘death of democracy’ which will make huge swathes of EU lawmaking totally secret from voters. Critics blasted MEPs for showing “contempt for the electorates of Europe” after they voted for the anti-democratic measure designed to hand more power to unelected bureaucrats. During a sitting at the European Parliament today representatives rubber stamped what on the surface appears a dry technical report – but one which contains an “explosively dangerous” catch. The Corbett Report – named after the British Labour MEP Richard Corbett who drafted it – will remove massive chunks of EU policy making from the public view.
PAUL NUTTALL has warned that Brexit “is just the beginning” before predicting the UK would become a “beacon of light” for other nations wanting out of the EU to follow. Speaking to RT, the Brexiteer admitted it would there was a “rocky road” ahead for Britain but insisted the country would become a “very strong economy”. He predicted that a prospering post-Brexit UK would prompt a pan-European movement to leave the EU, with elections scheduled for Germany, France and the Netherlands next year. Mr Nuttal told the news channel the UK would have to experience “short-term pain” in order for there to be “long-term gain”. “Once we get beyond that, and Britain starts signing trade deals across the rest of the world and stops looking inwards at a slow growing bloc that is the European Union and begins to look outwards to emerging markets in the East, Britain can become great again,” he said. “We can become a very strong economy, and I think we will be a beacon of light to other countries in the European Union. “I think after Brexit you might end up with a Frexit where France leaves, Dexit with the Danes, Nexit with the Dutch – I do believe that Brexit is just the beginning.”
Theresa May is planning a shakeup of social care provision after Downing Street acknowledged services were under threat in some areas. The prime minister’s official spokeswoman said the issue was discussed in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, with an agreement that this week’s local government settlement would contain measures to help ease the pressure. At the meeting, May also emphasised the “importance of finding a long-term sustainable way of addressing the issue”, raising the prospect of a more comprehensive shakeup. It comes after Philip Hammond, the chancellor, was criticised for failing to mention or address social care funding shortages in his autumn statement. There have been numerous warnings from local councils, including Conservative-led authorities, and Sarah Wollaston, the chair of the House of Commons health committee, that the system is at tipping point and putting unsustainable pressure on the NHS. The Daily Mail launched a campaign for the proper funding of social care with a front-page story on Tuesday.
Social care is “under threat” in parts of the country, No.10 has admitted – paving the way for council tax rises next year to rescue services. The growing controversy provoked the “lengthiest discussion” among ministers at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Theresa May’s spokeswoman said. It is the first time ministers have acknowledged the “threat” to social care systems, having previously preferred the phrase “under pressure”. And it came as Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said care services – rather than the NHS – should be at the “front of the queue” for any Government cash injection. He told a House of Lords inquiry: “It is quite obvious that the knock-on consequences of a deteriorating social care offer – not only for vulnerable people, but also into hospitals – is now unarguable.
Almost a million hospital patients have been sent home in the middle of the night despite warnings that the practice is “unacceptable and dangerous” for the elderly. In the four years since The Times exposed the scale of overnight discharges the number ejected from wards between 11pm and 6am has risen from 220,000 to 250,000 a year, in defiance of warnings from NHS leaders. Dementia patients are among those sent home — sometimes to cold and empty homes without the correct care or medication — as an elderly care crisis fills growing numbers of beds.
Southern rail passengers are facing a second day of strike travel chaos amid hopes of a resolution to the dispute over who should operate train doors. Talks will be held between the rail firm and the RMT and Aslef unions later at the conciliation service, Acas. Southern was forced to cancel more than 2,200 services on Tuesday, disrupting hundreds of thousands of passengers. The rail company said no Southern trains would operate on Wednesday and advised passengers not to travel. A limited Gatwick Express shuttle service to and from London Victoria is operating every 30 minutes and Thameslink is operating a normal timetable. The 48-hour strike by members of the drivers’ union Aslef over the introduction of driver-only trains is due to end at midnight.
A ban on all-out strikes and the break-up of the country’s biggest train operator are among reforms to the railways being considered by ministers, The Times has learnt. Senior Conservatives are demanding emergency legislation to ensure that at least half of all train services keep running during a strike, amid mounting anger over the worst rail dispute in a generation. It is understood that the government is examining the idea and has commissioned Whitehall to consider how such laws would work. Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, was asked yesterday whether the law would be changed in response to industrial action on Southern Rail, which left up to half a million commuters stranded on the first day of a three-day stoppage.
Taxpayers are footing a £50 million bill for the biggest series of rail strikes in a generation, while the company in charge of the train line stands to save money, it has emerged. The walkout by drivers and conductors on the Southern Rail line led to trains being cancelled for 300,000 commuters in the South East on Tuesday, prompting ministers to indicate that they are prepared to strengthen anti-strike laws. It has emerged that, because of a deal struck with Southern by the Government, the cost of the disruption will be borne by the taxpayer. Under the terms of the deal, the Government will pick up the tab for a £38 million fall in fare revenue and will pay out up to £15 million in compensation to passengers.
Talks aimed at resolving the Southern Rail drivers’ dispute will take place today as hundreds of thousands of commuters endure a second day of travel chaos. All of Southern’s 2,242 services ground to a halt on Tuesday as members of the Aslef and RMT unions walked out over a long-running dispute about driver-only trains. Despite informal discussions between the unions and Southern’s owners scheduled strike action is still going ahead today, as will another walkout on Friday. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has refused to rule out taking action to prevent further mass-walkouts and called the strikes “union militancy at its worst…based on a totally false premise”.
From the outside in, this is a classic industrial face-off. A company wants to change how its staff work. The unions cry foul and refuse to agree. No dispute is really ever that simple, but in the case of Southern and the rail unions, it’s not even the half of it. Why all this fuss over doors on the packed commuter lines between London and the South Coast, when agreements on the same issue have been reached in other parts of the country? The RMT is adamant this is about safety. A union spokesman says the ball is in Southern’s court, and rather than “winding up the rhetoric” and threatening to ban rail strikes, a process that would take months of producing new controversial legislation, the Union says that the transport secretary needs to “get out of his bunker and drag his contractors” to the table.
Education standards across England face “significant risks” because of government plans to ensure state schools save £3bn by 2019-2020, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned. Schools in England face an 8% real terms reduction in funding per pupil by 2019-20 because of cost pressures, the NAO said. The Department for Education (DfE) wants schools to make efficiency savings through better procurement , saving £1.3 billion, and by using their staff more efficiently, saving £1.7 billion. But the NAO wants the cost-cutting process to be closely monitored, saying it was “uncertain” how schools would react to the budget squeeze and they could make choices which “put educational outcomes at risk”. The NAO also wants the DfE to move faster to set out how it envisages achieving the savings and give schools more information and support.
Ministers have no idea how schools in England will implement £3bn worth of cuts and have not communicated the scale and pace of savings required, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has found. The National Audit Office said schools faced an 8% real-terms reduction in funding per pupil by 2019-20 and cost pressures could result in “significant risks” in making the necessary spending cuts. A report released on Wednesday has found that although average funding per pupil will rise from £5,447 in 2015-16 to £5,519 in 2019-20 that amounts to a real-terms reduction once inflation is taken into account. Headteachers and trusts have been braced for a new efficiency drive following previous funding announcements, but have expressed anger at the failure of the government to come up with a plan of implementation. The NAO’s conclusions paint a picture of a Department for Education that has ordered and announced a major cuts programme but has not issued any instructions over how that might be carried out.
Britain is ‘languishing in the digital slow lane’ with 4G connectivity worse than the networks of countries like Romania, Albania, Panama and Peru, according to the government’s official infrastructure advisers. The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) urged ministers to focus on making the UK ready for next-generation 5G communications and enhance connectivity throughout the country. It also called for a strong “digital champion” in government and a dedicated Cabinet minister to drive forward change. The NIC said the government should ensure that basic talk, text and data services are available to all Britons, wherever they live, work and travel as it claimed market provision of mobile services has left too many “digital deserts” and “not spots” where users cannot get 4G signals. Some 20% of urban homes and 80% of rural premises are currently in not-spot areas for 4G coverage and only 8% of A and B roads have full 4G connectivity, the report found.
Britain has a worse mobile phone network than Albania, Romania or Peru, officials revealed yesterday. Several countries that receive British aid also have better networks, including India and Indonesia, the National Infrastructure Commission found. It said more than 8,000 miles of Britain’s A and B roads have no signal at all. In addition, the latest 4G signals needed to make full use of mobile internet services are available in only a fifth of homes outside Britain’s major cities. This had created ‘digital deserts’ across swathes of the country. Britain comes 54th in the world, with coverage of just 57.9 per cent – the amount of time the average user has access to 4G. In a report, the NIC said the market was failing consumers. It urged ministers to stop Britain falling further behind as the mobile industry moves on to superfast 5G technology – the fifth generation of mobile internet networks. Former Labour Cabinet minister Lord Adonis, who led the review, said that although Britain was ‘languishing in the digital slow lane’, the rollout of 5G technology was an opportunity for the Government to ‘start again’.
Albania and Peru have better mobile phone coverage than the UK, according to a report from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC). The report, which said there are “too many digital deserts” across the country, ranked Britain 54th in the world for 4G coverage as people can access it just 53% of the time. The figures have prompted the NIC to call on the Government to introduce a new universal service obligation to ensure that text, talk and data are available wherever needed. In a statement, it said the Government “must now play an active role to ensure that basic services are available wherever we live, work and travel, and our roads, railways and city centres must be made 5G ready as quickly as possible”. The successor mobile network standard to 4G is 5G, which will offer much greater speeds, although its technical details are still being worked out.
The UN’s weather agency on Tuesday announced the highest wave on record – a behemoth that towered 19 metres (62.3 feet) above the North Atlantic. Scrutiny of data sent back by an automated buoy showed a monster wave rose at 0600 GMT on February 4, 2013 at a remote spot between Britain and Iceland, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said. “This is the first time we have ever measured a wave of 19 metres. It is a remarkable record,” WMO deputy chief Wenjian Zhang said in a statement. Taller than a six-storey building, the mighty wave occurred after a “very strong” cold front had barrelled through the area, producing winds up of 43.8 knots (81 kilometres, 50.4 miles per hour). The previous record height for a wave was 18.3m, notched up in December 2007, also in the North Atlantic. Automated buoys are vital tools for oceanographers, sending back data on sea currents, temperatures and swells for seafarers, climate researchers and others.