Brexit is firmly back on the agenda today after leaked papers revealed Brussels was hardening its negotiating stance with demands for a veto over future trade deals signed by the UK. Senior EU officials said Brexit could still be reversed, with European Council president Donald Tusk telling Britain, “Our hearts are still open for you”. Boris Johnson has stirred up anger by returning to his widely discredited claim that leaving the European Union would allow Britain to claw back £350m a week for the NHS. In a provocative interview, the Foreign Secretary admitted his claim had been wrong – as the true total was much higher at £438m. The Government’s flagship Brexit bill returns to the Commons for its final stages, where opposition MPs will attempt to force the Government to protect devolution and EU regulations after Brexit.
The Irish Prime Minister will insist that the Brexit commitments made by Britain in December should be legally binding when he speaks to the European Parliament later. Phase one of the talks concluded at the end of 2017 after agreement that the Irish border should remain open and that those born in Northern Ireland continue to be EU citizens. And although the British government have pledged the agreement “was much more than just legally enforceable”, the Taoiseach will call for it to be translated into the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement. Leo Varadkar will be the first EU Leader to speak to the European Parliament in a series of debates called the Future of Europe. Dr Varadkar said before his departure: “The values of solidarity, partnership, and cooperation which are central to the European project, have brought Ireland from a position of being one of the least developed Member States when we joined, to one of the most prosperous today.
The Conservatives have urged MPs to show a “unity of purpose” and back their Brexit legislation in a key vote. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill gets its third reading in the House of Commons later before heading to the Lords. The draft legislation has already been the subject of highly-charged debate in the Commons, facing hundreds of attempts to change its wording and suffering one government defeat. Ministers are not expected to lose Wednesday evening’s vote. But there have been warnings of trouble further ahead when the House of Lords takes over. The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019, and the EU (Withdrawal) Bill is a key part of the government’s Brexit strategy.
The European Union is hardening its stance, and will insist on the UK going on with freedom of movement and fishing quotas during the so-called ‘transition period’ that will go on until 2021 and possibly beyond that. A draft of the EU’s position conveniently leaked to the uber pro-Brussels Financial Times reportedly demands that the UK keeps EU open borders for years to come, with a ‘special status’ to EU migrants who arrive before the end of the transition period. It seems that the EU is also set to push for a tough line on fishing quotas, with the subject seemingly not up for debate. Diplomats have repeatedly reiterated that they expect Britain to go on with the EU’s disastrous fishing quotas. This is frankly farcical. For voters who backed Brexit on June 23rd 2016 to be expected to tolerate freedom of movement and Brussels’ policy on fisheries into the 2020s is a complete joke and would amount to betrayal.
The UK’s freedom to determine its own rules on immigration, trade and fishing in a transition period after Brexit may be further restricted, according to revised EU guidelines on a transition. Draft EU documents would see full freedom of movement extended until the start of 2021. The UK would also need “authorisation” to stick with existing EU trade deals. The BBC’s Adam Fleming said the guidelines appeared to be aiming for a “business as usual” transition period”. The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 but to minimise the disruption to people and businesses the idea is to smooth the way to post-Brexit relations over 18 months to two years – which is referred to as a transitional or implementation period.
The European Union (EU) is to demand that migrants who come to the UK for years after Brexit be allowed to stay permanently, a move which could disrupt negotiations. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has drawn up new negotiating guidelines, demanding that unlimited mass migration from the bloc should continue throughout the agreed two-year so-called ‘Brexit transition period’. The negotiating directive, seen by The Times, urges the EU to resist the UK applying any new immigration controls after it leaves the bloc – EU citizens and their families, including non-Europeans, would be eligible for automatic residency rights for an indefinite period if they arrived in the UK after Brexit but before 2021. Iain Duncan Smith, a former Tory cabinet minister and a Eurosceptic, told the paper: “We should smile and do nothing.”
Donald Tusk appealed to Theresa May to give British voters a chance to reverse Brexit yesterday, warning that a democracy “ceases to be a democracy” if it “cannot change its mind”. The president of the European Council appeared to back Tory rebels calling for a binding parliamentary vote on a Brexit deal saying the EU would welcome Britain back at any point before March next year. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said: “I hope that will be heard clearly in London.” Mr Tusk’s comments follow a trip to Brussels on Monday by senior MPs, including Tory rebels, who lobbied for a positive EU response to a possible Commons vote in the future rejecting Brexit.
Theresa May dismissed a plea from Brussels last night to rethink the decision to leave the EU. The EU’s top two officials appealed to Britain to have a ‘change of heart’ about Brexit. European Council president Donald Tusk told Britain: ‘Our hearts are still open to you’. He was backed by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who said: ‘Our door still remains open and I hope that will be heard clearly in London.’ His deputy, Frans Timmermans, said the block was ready for any British ‘second thoughts’. The appeal follows debate in the UK about the possibility of a second referendum, and will be seen as an attempt to destabilise Mrs May before talks on a post-Brexit trade deal. Last night, the PM used talks with Austrian president Sebastian Kurz to send a message to Brussels that she had no intention of reopening the question of Britain’s EU membership. No10 said she told Mr Kurz, who is due to hold the rotating presidency of the EU, that ‘the Government will respect the decision taken by the British public to leave the EU’.
Foreign trawlers could be banned from using electric shocks to catch fish in British waters after the European parliament voted to end the practice. About 100 mainly Dutch-owned vessels fire bursts of electricity into the seabed to force out sole and plaice, but British fishermen say they kill many other species and that the sea is a “graveyard” after they have passed. MEPs voted by 402 votes to 232 yesterday for a total ban on “pulse fishing”, which the European Commission says needs to be used partly in order to study its impact. George Eustice, the fishing minister, last year ordered an investigation into pulse fishing after receiving advice that there were “some detrimental effects on fish species like cod”.
A NEW poll has revealed that eight in 10 voters want Britain to seize back control of its waters by the end of 2019 even if there is a two year transition period after Brexit. The YouGov poll commissioned by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) found that 59 per cent of those who expressed an opinion wanted EU fishermen to lose automatic access to British waters on the official departure date of 29 March 2019. Another 20 per cent agreed with the idea that there should be a short transition period for fishing to the end of 2019. SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: “It is clear that there is overwhelming public support for the UK to regain control of what is after all part of its natural capital – the fish stocks around our shores.
UKIP fisheries spokesman, Mike Hookem MEP, has welcomed research conducted by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation that found 8 out of 10 people want the UK to quit the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) immediately or soon after Brexit; saying, “UKIP is the only party working towards getting the UK fully out of the CFP.” Speaking from Strasbourg, Mr Hookem continued; “UKIP this week put forward an amendment in the European Parliament that would have ensured the UK left the CFP in March 2019. However, while the Tories abstained from the vote; Labour, the self-proclaimed “fishermen’s friends,” voted against the motion.” “The fact is, neither the Tories nor Labour, are any friend of the fishing industry unless of course, it’s Dutch, French, Belgian or Danish. “Only UKIP are fighting to bring back British fishing grounds for British fishers! “UKIP is the only party committed to removing the UK from the CFP on day one of Brexit and to that end, we are calling for people to sign our petition.
Boris Johnson has warned Theresa May that the Government must make a public commitment to giving the NHS an extra £100million a week after Brexit if the Tories are to beat Jeremy Corbyn at the next election. The Foreign Secretary believes that the Government must adopt the flagship Vote Leave pledge and spend £5.2billion a year that would have been paid into Brussels on the health service instead. His intervention comes as hospitals struggle to cope with the winter flu crisis amid an ongoing row between the Government and NHS England over funding. Mr Corbyn, the Labour leader, has put the issue at the forefront of his campaigning.
Boris Johnson has said the Tories must commit to giving the NHS an extra £100 million a week to beat Jeremy Corbyn at the next election. The Foreign Secretary believes that the Government must spend £5.2billion a year he says would have been paid into Brussels on the health service instead. Mr Johnson became embroiled in another row over the amount of money the UK gives to the EU on Monday when he claimed that the figure emblazoned on the Vote Leave bus of £350m a week was too low. Instead he insisted the UK’s weekly gross contribution would rise to £438m by the end of a post-Brexit transition period. Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said he had written to the UK Statistics Authority, who have previously chastised the foreign secretary for using the figure, for repeating the the disputed amount.
Boris Johnson has suggested that additional NHS funding should come from the Brexit dividend rather than a new tax. The foreign secretary joined the heated debate among senior Conservatives about how much to put into the NHS after the funding settlement runs out in 2020 and how to pay for it. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is prepared to look at a new tax among other options, The Times revealed yesterday. Nick Boles, the Tory MP for Grantham & Stamford, has backed an additional levy, as has Nick Macpherson, former permanent secretary to the Treasury. However, Mr Johnson told The Guardian that the cash should come from funds now paid to Brussels that may be available after Brexit.
Boris Johnson wants Theresa May to counter the threat of Jeremy Corbyn by pledging to give the NHS an extra £100million a week after Brexit. The Foreign Secretary has told colleagues he believes the government must adopt a Vote Leave pledge and give billions that would have been handed to Brussels on the health service. The Telegraph said he is likely to have the support of Environment Secretary Michael Gove, the leading Leave campaigner. An ally of Mr Johnson told the paper: ‘Boris thinks that for the Tories to beat Corbyn it is fundamental that the government delivers on NHS funding and he will continue to make this argument until it happens. ‘Every poll conducted shows the NHS is top of swing voter concerns and every expert says it needs more money – the Cabinet will have to act and the sooner the better.
Seriously ill patients with Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis are among tens of thousands of people whose care is compromised by red tape and funding restrictions by parts of the NHS, MPs have warned. The Public Accounts Committee has criticised NHS England for failing to ensure patients can access NHS Continuing Healthcare (CHC) funding and warned hundreds of millions in cuts being demanded put safety at risk. In a report on the scheme, which offers extra care support for patients with significant health needs, the committee slammed “inconsistency and delays” which have seen patients die while waiting for assistance. Support through CHC helps patients who have care needs above and beyond traditional social care support, such as washing and dressing. It is funded by the NHS but clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), who administer funds locally, have been asked, by NHS England, to find £855m in “efficiency savings” from the budgets for CHC and nursing support by 2021.
Jacob Rees-Mogg last night vowed to hold ministers to their promises on Brexit after he was elected leader of an influential group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs. The vociferous Brexit supporter stood unopposed to become chairman of the Elected Research Group (ERG), which comprises more than 60 backbenchers. Mr Rees-Mogg has voiced concerns about how Britain could be forced to allow free movement to continue and remain subject to the European Court of Justice during the transition period. Yesterday he pledged to be ‘helpful, vigorous and supportive’ towards the Government as it implements its policy of ‘making a success of Brexit’.
Jacob Rees-Mogg has been elected chair of an influential backbench group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs after promising to help Theresa May carry out the type of Brexit she originally promised. The MP for North East Somerset will lead the European research group (ERG), which was formed to support Conservative MPs as the party delivers Brexit. He has taken over the role after stints in charge by Suella Fernandes and Steve Baker, both of whom have now entered the Department for Exiting the EU as ministers. In a statement, Rees-Mogg said he intended to support the principles of May’s Lancaster House speech from last year, which promised to leave the single market and end free movement. It comes at a time when hardline Eurosceptics are anxious to fight those in cabinet who prefer a softer Brexit.
JACOB Rees-Mogg has been hailed as a ‘true believer’ in Brexit following his appointment to a key backbench Tory Europsceptic group. The influential Tory MP has vowed to support the government in handing back ‘control’ after he stood unopposed to chair the European Reform Group. The group has more than 60 Eurosceptic Tory MPs but there was rising concern that it was failing to do enough to influence the Government. Warning Mrs May his group would fight any attempt to water down Brexit, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “It is especially important to achieve control of our laws, control immigration and achieve new trade agreements with other countries. “The ERG speaks individually not with the collective view but has considerable support across the Parliamentary Party.
JACOB Rees-Mogg has vowed to support the Prime Minister in handing ‘control’ back to Britain as the trailblazing Eurosceptic is appointed as Chairman of the influential European Research Group (ERG). The ERG, a hard Brexit backing group of Tory MPs, is adamant on ensuring Britain makes a success of Brexit. Now with Mr Rees-Mogg at the helm, the group is likely to push for a clean break from Brussels after the Somerset MP told Mrs May to stick to her negotiation ‘red lines’ last month. Mr Rees-Mogg’s promotion from vice-Chair could also bode well for the trailblazer’s future – with both of his predecessors later finding roles in the Department for Exiting the European Union.
The length of a third runway at Heathrow could be reduced by 300 metres under plans outlined today. The airport said that the runway, which was originally planned to be 3,500 metres long, could be reduced by almost 9 per cent to ease disruption. The move could lessen the impact on residents of construction work and cut noise over nearby homes by altering the path of aircraft taking off or landing. Heathrow is also considering putting part of the M25 in a tunnel 150m to the west to accommodate the new runway. Highways experts have already said that the work could cause chaos on the motorway. The runway, which would be northwest of the airport, is one of the most controversial projects for decades.
The M25 could be moved into a tunnel below a third Heathrow runway, under plans published today. They would see the motorway shifted 150 metres west – and lowered by seven metres. The runway would be raised between three and five metres, and pass overhead. The consultation document also suggests the runway could be cut by 300 metres to 3,200 metres long. However, it does not set out exact flight paths informing residents where noise will be concentrated. MPs are expected to vote on the plans – first proposed as long ago as 2003 – later this year. The airport expects the total cost to be around £14billion, some £2.8billion less than originally suggested.
The owners of more than a million poorly insulated homes may be forced to upgrade them before they can be sold to help to meet the government’s climate change targets. The committee on climate change, which advises the government on the targets, is calling today for urgent action to reduce the amount of energy wasted in homes. It says in a report that government policies set out last year in the clean growth strategy are inadequate to meet the UK’s legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It wants the government to try to give homeowners incentives to invest in better insulation, but to make it compulsory if take-up is low.
UKIP was plunged into a fresh crisis last night as it was warned it faces ‘imminent bankruptcy’ unless it immediately starts laying off staff and giving notice on its tenancies for office buildings. A group of senior party figures demanded radical cost-cutting to keep Ukip afloat, including ditching all mailouts to party members. Ukip’s most recent accounts show that it was £380,630 in debt even before last year’s surprise general election. The party’s MEPs Stuart Agnew and Bill Etheridge have drawn up a ‘proposal for transformation’ alongside its London party chairman Freddy Vacha, former leadership candidate Ben Walker and ex-parliamentary candidate Catherine Blaiklock. They warned that only ‘radical structural change and control of expenses’ will ‘save Ukip from going under’. In a damning assessment of the party’s precarious financial position, they wrote: ‘Ukip does not deserve to run anything. ‘It is rightly perceived to be incompetent. It has not controlled its own finances, not become an internet-focussed party, rewarded failure repeatedly and not changed or disciplined underperforming top-level personnel, paid or unpaid.’