A Tory MP and his two aides falsely declared expenses and breached campaign spending limits in the 2015 general election because they were desperate to ensure that Nigel Farage would not win the seat, a court was told yesterday. Craig Mackinlay, 52, an accountant, is accused of hiding thousands of pounds of extra spending before his victory over the then Ukip leader in South Thanet, Kent. The prosecution says that Mr Mackinlay’s election spending was almost double the £52,000 limit in the constituency.
A Tory MP overspent on his election campaign to beat Nigel Farage and “see off” the then-UKIP leader’s parliamentary ambitions “forever”, a court has heard. South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay, 52, along with his election agent Nathan Gray, 29, and party activist Marion Little, 63, are alleged to have been complicit in submitting false expenditure declarations. Southwark Crown Court heard the Conservative Party put extra resources into the campaign to win the Kent seat in 2015 because UKIP’s support was on the rise.
Tory MP Craig Mackinlay overspent on the 2015 general election campaign to beat then-UKIP leader Nigel Farage in the South Thanet seat, the prosecution at Southwark Crown Court has claimed. The 52-year-old is accused, alongside his election agent Nathan Gray, 29, of submitting false expenditure declarations, while party activist Marion Little, 63, is accused of encouraging or assisting an offence, reports the BBC. Opening the case for the prosecution, Aftab Jafferjee said: “Nigel Farage indicated he would step down as UKIP leader if he failed to win South Thanet, so it was clear this was not going to be any ordinary election campaign.”
The prime minister heads to Brussels today with little expectation of unlocking the further progress on Brexit that had been hoped for this month. Downing Street insiders do not now believe there is much prospect of the EU27 recommending a special November summit to seal a deal. Ministerial sources told Sky News “the most we can hope for is that they don’t rule a November summit out”. The PM will address the EU27 just ahead of their pre-summit dinner, with UK officials playing down the prospect for any new proposals or breakthroughs.
Talks between Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and EU negotiator Michel Barnier have broken down, and ministers and civil servants have been told to have preparations for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit ready within weeks. Raab, who replaced David Davis after he resigned from his post saying Theresa May’s proposals for a deal with the EU would not really deliver Brexit, flew out to Brussels on Sunday for surprise talks amid speculation that an agreement was imminent — but they broke down after little more than an hour, according to The Times. It has been reported that the talks have reached an impasse over the EU demanding a ‘backstop to the backstop’, — referring to the already highly contentious proposal that the entire United Kingdom stay inside the European Union’s Customs Union, possibly indefinitely.
Britain will still have to pay the EU up to £36 billion if it fails to agree a trade deal, Philip Hammond has claimed, as Brussels said no deal is now “more likely than ever”. The Chancellor told Cabinet ministers the UK would be unlikely to win any legal battle to withhold large chunks of the Brexit bill, despite previous Government promises that the payment was conditional on a deal. Mr Hammond’s comments angered Eurosceptics, who described his stance as “mystifying”. However, sources close to the Chancellor insisted he was as frustrated as his colleagues with the EU’s intransigence, and was merely setting out legal advice the Treasury had been given.
Theresa May has been told that it is up to her to deliver a “creative solution” to break the impasse that threatens to leave Wednesday’s “moment of truth” Brexit summit of EU leaders collapsing around her. With the issue of the backstop to the Irish border derailing the negotiations, and the timeline slipping by the week, Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, said he would demand fresh concrete proposals on the Irish border from the prime minister. Plans to outline a future trade deal during a leaders’ dinner on Wednesday night, a long-sought demand of Downing Street, have been scrapped. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said the UK government had also failed to meet the conditions necessary for a special November Brexit summit to be called.
The 27 EU leaders will not even consider a trade deal with Britain at the “moment of truth” EU summit in Brussels tomorrow, following the collapse of talks on the Irish border this weekend. The shock revelation, confirmed by senior EU diplomats familiar with preparations for the meeting, shows the rising risk of a no-deal Brexit as Theresa May travels to the EU capital in a bid to save her project. Over dinner on Wednesday night the heads of government will decide whether there is any point in holding a special Brexit summit in November or whether the horse has already bolted and they should step-up preparations for a no-deal. But they will not be presented with any drafts of the “joint political declaration” on the future relationship – the outline of a possible trading relationship between the UK and EU.
Theresa May was dealt a Brexit blow today as the EU dumped a bucket of cold water on her hopes of a deal – hours before a major summit. European Council President Donald Tusk demanded “new facts” and “concrete proposals” from the embattled Prime Minister before talks can move on. He warned there were “no grounds for optimism” and No Deal is “more likely than ever” – adding EU leaders will use a dinner tomorrow night to “step up” preparations for a No Deal Brexit. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier also warned he hadn’t yet seen the “decisive progress” needed to call a final Brexit summit in November.
BREXIT will have to be delayed beyond March to give more time for another election or even a second referendum, according to former top EU official Jeroen Dijsselbloem. The former Dutch finance minister, who was president of the eurozone’s governing body until January, said the negotiation deadlock may go on for many more months. He wrote in a blog on LinkedIn: “There won’t be a Brexit deal this week, or even next month. “Extra time is inevitable. It is needed to work out any serious deal, it’s necessary to avoid a vote in the British parliament in the short run.
There has been Italian fury after a case that saw undocumented migrants taken over the Italian border by French police. Last Friday, Italian officers spotted a French police van near Claviere, on the border. French officers seemingly ushered the two men out of the vehicle into woodland, according to The Local. They then started driving back towards France. A French official, Cécile Bigot-Dekeyzer, insisted that the move was “an error on the part of the officers”. Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has responded furiously, saying: “I don’t want to believe that Macron’s France would use its own police to secretly unload immigrants in Italy.
Ireland’s ambassador accused Theresa May of “backsliding” on her promise to avoid a hard border after Brexit on Tuesday, as he ruled out her proposal of a temporary customs union. Adrian O’Neill said his government was increasingly concerned by the prime minister’s attempts to unpick key elements of the backstop clause, which she provisionally agreed to in December. In a briefing on Tuesday, Mr O’Neill said: “We are concerned [about] certain things which were agreed in December and repeated in March.”
Ireland has expressed concern that the British government is “backsliding” on Theresa May’s firm commitment to sign up to a backstop promise for the Irish border that would guarantee the open border remains after Brexit in the event of no deal. In an unusually outspoken speech, Adrian O’Neill, the Irish ambassador to the UK, told an audience of British civil servants and EU embassy officials he was alarmed that some Brexiter MPs think the backstop was not even necessary. “We are concerned [about] certain things which were agreed in December and repeated in March,” the ambassador said in reference to the deal May struck with the EU in December and her signing of the draft withdrawal agreement in March.
President Macron of France is ready to support a compromise over the Irish border to secure a final Brexit deal, senior French officials said yesterday. Diplomats, including officials from France and Germany, have indicated that negotiations are advanced and that agreement on the Irish question is possible in the coming weeks, but not in time for today’s EU summit. “We remain confident that there will be a settlement,” a French official said. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, told ministers from member states he was confident that Mrs May would be able to see the Brexit negotiations through to their conclusion.
THERESA May’s push for a Brexit breakthrough was dramatically boosted last night when French officials hinted at a possible compromise on the eve of an EU summit. Sources in President Emmanuel Macron‘s government indicated a surprise readiness to help solve the Irish border row that has deadlocked the Brussels negotiations for weeks. “There is a possible space to find an agreement,” said one French official. Mrs May is due to address EU leaders on her position in the negotiations ahead of the summit dinner in Brussels tonight. However, Theresa May will be excluded from the meal where the leaders of the 27 nations staying in the EU after Brexit will discuss the state of the talks.
The disturbing scale of the ‘county lines’ national crime epidemic was laid bare yesterday. Police said the number of gangs shipping heroin and crack cocaine from cities to provincial towns had doubled to 1,500 in under a year. Using youngsters as drug mules, they are making a combined £7million a day – around £2.5billion a year. Last night it also emerged that: 200 suspects were arrested in just one week in the first round-Britain crackdown on the gangs; Dealers as young as 13 were among those held by police; Officers seized scores of weapons including loaded guns, a samurai sword and hunting knives.
COUNTY lines drugs gangs are using kids as young as 13 to peddle heroin and crack cocaine. More than 200 suspected gangsters have been arrested in a national crackdown. There are thought to be around 1,500 of county lines networks in operation in the UK, which involve urban dealers forcing children to carry drugs to customers in more rural areas. They also “cuckoo” the homes of vulnerable or drug-addicted people to use to stash illegal substances. Dozens of police forces across the UK took part in action last week and 58 victims who had been caught up in the gangs were rescued.
REMAINER Labour MPs last night spared Commons boss John Bercow from the chop to help them stop Brexit. The embattled Speaker defied calls to resign immediately over toxic bullying and harassment claims rocking Westminster. Labour grandee Dame Margaret Beckett said the “constitutional future” of Britain “trumps bad behaviour”, after other MPs lined up to demand Mr Bercow quit, saying to his face the “the fish rots from the head”. But pals insisted he would not walk before Brexit is done, repeating claims he would go next summer after a decade in charge. Instead Mr Bercow called for yet another independent inquiry into bullying in Westminster — after a probe by ex-judge Dame Laura Cox accused him of being at the centre of a toxic cover up.
John Bercow will remain in post as Commons Speaker until next year after Labour was accused of propping him up out of “political expediency” in a bid to “derail Brexit”. Mr Bercow was told by MPs in the Commons chamber to quit over his handling of Westminster’s bullying and sexual harassment scandal. But Labour rode to his rescue with one of the party’s most senior MPs claiming Brexit “trumps bad behaviour”. Mr Bercow, who has denied bullying allegations made against him, had always intended to quit this summer at the end of a nine year term he promised he would serve when he was elected Speaker in 2009.
John Bercow is set to quit as Speaker on his own terms next summer after securing the backing of Labour MPs who want him to stay until after Brexit. Opposition MPs declared it was more important that Mr Bercow presided over crucial Brexit votes than be forced out by a damning report into Westminster’s bullying culture. Dame Margaret Beckett, the former acting leader of the party, and Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, cited Brexit as the reason why Mr Bercow should not quit. An independent report had found that “disturbing” allegations of harassment by MPs had been “tolerated and concealed” and warned that it would be “extremely difficult” for Mr Bercow to bring about the change required.
John Bercow is facing calls to resign from his position as Commons speaker in the wake of a damning report into bullying in Westminster. In the most significant intervention yet, Maria Miller, who chairs the women and equalities select committee, said Monday’s independent inquiry showed “bullying and harassment is coming right from the top”. The former cabinet minister said it was not right for Mr Bercow to oversee reform recommended by the former high court judge Dame Laura Cox, whose report found “urgent and serious problems” in the way abusive behaviour by MPs and staff is dealt with in Parliament. Dame Cox added that a culture of “deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence” had allowed the bullying and harassment of the staff in the Commons to thrive, claiming she found it “difficult to envisage” how solutions could be delivered under the current senior administration.
A veteran Labour MP has claimed the Commons speaker should not stand down over the handling of allegations of bullying and harassment in Westminster as Brexit “trumps bad behaviour”. Dame Margaret Beckett said leaving the EU was “the most difficult decision we’ve made possibly for hundreds of years” and John Bercow should be allowed to continue in his post as “this is not a normal time for a speaker to stand aside”. MPs have called for Mr Bercow to to resign in the wake of a damning report by former high court judge Dame Laura Cox, which laid bare the “urgent and serious problem” of sexual harassment, intimidation and bullying in Parliament. More than 200 complainants claimed to have been groped and propositioned, often by male MPs, amid a culture of “deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence”.
Ministers are set to spend £100 million to allow them to delay a crunch vote on universal credit that was expected within weeks. Theresa May was facing a rebellion by at least 30 Conservative MPs over secondary legislation to start the process of moving four million claimants on to universal credit from January. They would have been moved initially in small batches, with larger-scale transitions from July. Leaked documents seen by the BBC have revealed that the initial migration has been pushed back to the summer and the large-scale transition will not begin until November 2020. This nine-month delay will cost the exchequer £100 million since the existing benefit scheme pays claimants more.
The rollout of universal credit could be delayed again while ministers assess problems that have plagued the Conservatives’ flagship welfare change, including a backlash from the party’s MPs. The work and pensions secretary, Esther McVey, told the House of Commons the migration of claimants on to universal credit would not start until next summer, rather than January as had been expected. “Under the process of managed migration, the rollout will be slow and measured,” she said on Monday. “It will start not in January 2019, but later in the year. “For a further year, we will be learning as we go with a small amount of people – maybe 10,000 – to ensure that the system is right. The rollout will then increase from 2020 onwards. It will be slow and measured, and we will adapt and change as we go.”
THE government faced a further barrage of criticism over universal credit today, with demands that its introduction across the country be stopped immediately to prevent crippling debt and severe hardship. Former senior government adviser Dame Louise Casey said that problems with the Tories’ much-vaunted new welfare system that existed a year ago had not gone away, and that constant tinkering was not helping. In view of the problems already experienced by claimants, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey promised the Commons yesterday that only “a small amount of people,” about 10,000, would be moved to the new benefit next year, to ensure the functioning of the system.
The government is planning a major climbdown over Universal Credit, a leaked document has revealed. It comes hours after Tory welfare chief Esther McVey confirmed she will ‘migrate’ no more than 10,000 existing claimants on to the benefit until mid-2020. Her confession suggests the vast majority of the UK’s 3.95million existing benefit claimants will not begin so-called “managed migration” until then. Now the BBC reports this move will extend UC’s estimated finish date from March 2023 to December 2023, the ninth delay to the rollout. And a document leaked to the Corporation also reveals a string of measures to offer people more help. Hard-up families could now get higher transition payments and lower loan repayments after UC drove desperate people to rent arrears, food banks and prostitution.
The BBC is preparing to scrap or restrict free television licences for people aged above 75 after publishing a study showing that pensioners are becoming richer. More than 4.46 million homes with older residents receive a free television licence, saving them £150.50 a year. The benefit was introduced in 2001. The corporation is expected to put forward research in a matter of weeks on ways to reform the subsidy, with a view to introducing a new system by 2020. Options are likely to include raising the age of eligibility, introducing means-testing to exclude wealthier pensioners or removing the benefit from people above 75 who live with younger relatives.