Trade talks


France has been one of the most insistent of the EU member states in pushing for the UK to remain in lockstep with European rules and regulations in return for a trade deal. As one-half of the power-broking couple alongside Germany, France has been leading the demands for the UK to stay in so-called “dynamic alignment” on employment, environment and state aid rules in the future. French President Emmanuel Macron is the most concerned of the EU leaders about the UK’s capacity to become a significant economic competitor on the doorstep of the bloc in years to come. The French are also concerned about the future fisheries policy with the UK. Taking back control over Britain’s coastal waters has given Boris Johnson one of his strongest bargaining chips in the upcoming negotiations. France, along with several other EU nations, want to continue to have access to UK waters to continue to provide for the tastes of their domestic consumers.

GUY VERHOFSTADT has launched a savage attack on Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan accusing Britain’s chief negotiator of treating the EU and the UK as if they are “living on two different planets”. Guy Verhofstadt, MEP and former Brexit Coordinator for the European Parliament, has attacked Britain’s plan for a future trading relationship with the bloc. On Monday evening, Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator, David Frost, outlined Britain’s proposals insisting the UK will walk away from trade talks with Brussels rather than surrender Britain’s newly-won independence to secure a deal.

Michel Barnier has rejected British demands for a Canada-style trade deal that would free the UK from EU rules as he made a thinly-veiled warning to Boris Johnson not to break his word. Speaking in response to a landmark speech by David Frost, Britain’s Brexit negotiator, Barnier said such an offer was not on the table and noted that the prime minister had agreed only six months ago to stick to the EU’s state aid rules and current social and environmental regulations after the transition period.

BBC News
The UK cannot have the same trade deal with the EU as Canada, according to the bloc’s chief negotiator. Michel Barnier said the EU was ready to offer an “ambitious partnership” with the UK post-Brexit, but its “particular proximity” meant it would be different. It comes after the UK’s chief negotiator, David Frost, made a speech in Brussels calling for a “Canada-Free Trade Agreement-type relationship”. The two sides are due to start negotiations next month. The UK left the EU on 31 January and is now in a transition period – following the majority of the bloc’s rules – while a post-Brexit trade deal is hammered out.

BORIS Johnson’s standoff with Brussels intensified when the EU’s chief negotiator rejected his bid for a Canada-style trade deal. Michel Barnier claimed Britain’s “proximity” to the continent meant the country needed stronger ties to the EU than the Prime Minister’s preferred zero-tariff plan. EU chiefs also signalled they will demand that the UK hands the Elgin Marbles back to Greece as part of a trade deal. Mr Barnier’s remarks raised the likelihood of deadlock when the two sides begin talks on a trade deal next month. He claimed the bloc will stick to its previous offer of an “ambitious partnership” with the UK remaining tied into a swathe of Brussels regulations after the end of the Brexit transition at the end of the year.


The EU added an “Elgin Marbles clause” to its demands for a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain on Tuesday, raising fears that it would bolster Greek calls for their repatriation to Athens. The demand was revealed in Brussels after the EU inter-governmental talks and as Michel Barnier rejected demands by David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, for a Canada-style trade agreement. British negotiators will reject any role for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the future trading relationship, it also emerged, opening up another rift between the two deeply divided sides ahead of trade talks in March.

Evening Standard
The Government has pushed back on the prospect of returning ancient artefacts to EU member states as part of post-Brexit trade plans.  A leaked draft EU document suggested the British government could be forced to return precious artefacts to their countries of origin as part of negotiations. However, a No10 spokeswoman drew the line at the prospect of handing back the 5th Century Greek Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, which are currently housed in the British Museum. She said: “The UK’s position on the Parthenon sculptures remains unchanged – they are legal responsibility of the British Museum.

The EU today suggested the Elgin Marbles will be the price of a trade deal – as Michel Barnier dismissed the UK’s call for a Canada-style agreement. The bloc’s post-Brexit negotiating mandate is being extended to include a demand to ‘address issues relating to the return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin’. The ask is believed to have been added at the request of Greece, Italy and Cyprus – and indicates that Brussels intends to play hardball.

Sky News
A demand for the return of “unlawfully removed cultural objects” has been included in the EU’s negotiating mandate for trade talks with the UK – prompting claims Britain will be held to ransom over the Elgin Marbles. The British Museum has long refused to return the 2,500-year-old artefacts to Greece, which the country says were stolen from them by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century when it was under Ottoman Turkish rule. However, the museum says the relics, which are roughly half of a 160-metre-long frieze which took pride of place in the Parthenon in the 5th century, were legally acquired by Elgin, who was said to have made an agreement with the Ottoman leaders.

Britain faces having to return the Elgin Marbles as part of a free trade deal with the European Union after Greece demanded a clause is inserted in the agreement. A draft negotiating mandate circulated among European governments in Brussels today hardened EU demands in key traditional trade areas, particularly fishing, but also included the unexpected “return and restitution” line. “The parties should address issues relating to the return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their country of origin,” said a newly drafted text that will be signed off by EU governments next week.

EUROPE’S much-vaunted trade deal with Canada is on the verge of collapse with the Dutch government set to reject it. The EU-Canada free trade agreement (CETA) was seen by many as a blueprint for the bloc’s post-Brexit trading relationship with the UK but Dutch MPs are expected to throw it out when they vote on whether to ratify the accord later today. Such a move would spark yet another political crisis in Brussels with the model for Brexit trade talks in tatters just as the EU’s beleaguered bosses are bracing themselves for some brutal negotiations with the British counterparts.


Today is the anniversary of the launch of The Independent Group, later Change UK, then Change UK – The Independent Group, then The Independent Group for Change, before splitting off into a group called The Independents and independent MPs. Brexiteers have a lot to thank them for… Firstly, their hard-line position within Parliament helped scupper the indicative votes attempt to bounce the UK into a rule taking position. The customs union option came just three votes away from achieving a majority, meaning TIG’s decision to oppose it prevented Parliament backing a subservient post-Brexit Britain trapped within the customs union. Remain strategy became ‘all or nothing’, and they got nothing… Secondly, without pressure generated by the TIGgers, it is unlikely that Labour would have felt compelled to switch to a pro-second referendum decision.

International aid

A study into large-scale corruption and international aid has finally come to light following reports that its suppression led to the World Bank losing its chief economist. The paper, commissioned by the Bank and written by one of its own economists along with two academics, found that as much as one-sixth of all international aid sent to the most impoverished countries in the world ends up in tax havens, indicating the potential scale of corrupt officials pilfering donations. However, the publication of the research was delayed, leading to speculation as to how the findings were received at the Washington-based institution, which dishes out tens of billions of dollars every year in loans, grants, guarantees and investments.


There is no end in sight for Brits trapped aboard the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess after the government told passengers they may not be allowed on the evacuation flight if they disembark to vessel.  Pressure has been mounting on Foreign Office chiefs to evacuate the 74 Britons on-board the vessel in light of the fact the number diagnosed with the virus on the ship continues to rise. The Diamond Princess moored in Yokohama near Tokyo has proved a fertile breeding ground for the virus, with at least 542 positive cases, and Japan has come under fire for its handling of the quarantine arrangements.

EXPERTS say quarantining passengers on a bug-infested cruise ship has created a “boiling pot of transmission” as more people tested positive for coronavirus. David, 74, and Sally Abel are among the 78 Brits stuck on the Diamond Princess liner since it docked in Japan on February 3 after an outbreak of the virus. David, who has type-2 diabetes, has spent the last two weeks begging the UK government to take action and rescue British nationals on board in his daily social media posts. David and Sally are not expected to leave the ship as a test yesterday revealed they were positive with the deadly bug – raising fears the quarantined ship had become an incubator for the bug to spread as more people tested positive for the deadly bug.

The ‘failed’ two-week cruise ship quarantine on the Diamond Princess has trapped hundreds of tourists in an ideal breeding ground for the killer coronavirus, leading experts have warned today.  Scientists have lined up to resign Japan’s efforts to failure after another 88 people on the giant vessel tested positive today, bringing the total number of infected passengers to 542. The Diamond Princess cruise ship has now had more cases of coronavirus confirmed than all the countries outside of China combined (443). Third placed is Singapore, which has had 77 cases of SARS-CoV-2.  Disease experts said the ship had now become a ‘source of infection’ rather than a safe haven and that keeping all the passengers on board had made the disease spread more rather than stopping it.


Businesses will be forced to end their reliance on cheap low-skilled migrants and recruit more British workers under a new points-based immigration system, the Government will announce on Wednesday. Boris Johnson will introduce new laws next month aimed at limiting migration to skilled workers from the EU and rest of the world who have a job offer, speak English and command a salary of £25,600 a year or more. Ministers claim it will lead to a “significant reduction” in migration with advisors saying up to 70 per cent of EU workers allowed into the UK since 2004 would not have qualified under the points system.

Low-skilled migration will end under sweeping reforms of the immigration system that the government says will stop businesses relying on cheap European labour. Companies will have to use the 3.2 million EU citizens already in Britain to fill low-skilled jobs, along with a fourfold expansion of seasonal workers to pick fruit and vegetables. They will also be expected to make work in areas such as food processing, hospitality and gardening more attractive to British workers by investing in training and new technology.

Britain is to close its borders to unskilled workers and those who can’t speak English as part of a fundamental overhaul of immigration laws that will end the era of cheap EU labour in factories, warehouses, hotels and restaurants. Unveiling its Australian-style points system on Wednesday, the government will say it is grasping a unique opportunity to take “full control” of British borders “for the first time in decades” and eliminate the “distortion” caused by EU freedom of movement.

The Government has set out its plans for a points-based immigration system to come into force on January 1 2021. A policy statement published on Wednesday said free movement would end, laws surrounding this would be repealed and a new Immigration Bill would be introduced for a “firm and fair” system which would “attract the high-skilled workers” to create a “high wage, high skill, high productivity economy”. The Home Office has told businesses they should end their “reliance on cheap, low-skilled labour.

Priti Patel has said that it is ‘right’ that workers should have to learn English before they come to the UK. Speaking ahead of an announcement on the government’s new points-based immigration system, the home secretary stated that immigrants will ‘obviously’ need to speak English and have a ‘sponsored route’ through employment or an academic institution in order to gain a visa. “We’re being very clear about this – this is a system that puts the British government in control of its immigration policy for the first time in decades.

Migrants from the EU will have to speak English and have a job offer under sweeping reforms to end Britain’s reliance on cheap European labour. The measures are part of the biggest shake-up to border rules since this country joined the Common Market in 1973. Low-skilled immigration will be made virtually impossible under a points-based system as free movement rights are consigned to history. Instead, EU migrants’ chances of getting a work visa will be the same as for applicants from elsewhere. They will need at least 70 points to work in Britain, with points awarded for speaking English, if the job earns a salary above £25,600 and if it is at a certain skill level.

Fox News
The U.K. government on Tuesday unveiled a new points-based immigration system that will assess prospective immigrants  based on their skills, qualifications and salary while shifting the economy away from a reliance on cheap labor. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government said the new rules would “open up the U.K. to the brightest and the best from around the world.” The new rules follow Britain’s calamitous exit from the European Union last month after 47 years of membership. More than 3 million EU citizens currently living in the U.K. are entitled to stay. But from January 1, 2021, new immigration rules will apply to EU and non-EU citizens alike.


An evil-looking wave lashes the coast as forecasters warned of a fresh deluge of rain. Up to 100mm of rain could fall in 24 hours in areas already under water. More than 300 flood warnings remained in place across England last night after Storm Dennis left towns flooded. Six of the warnings were for severe flooding, including four areas in the Midlands around the River Severn where conditions pose a “danger to life”. The Met Office said: “Further rain will arrive on Wednesday evening and this is likely to become prolonged and possibly heavy over areas of high ground.

ITV News
Flood-hit communities are braced for further heavy rain as river levels continue to threaten to breach barriers. Hundreds of properties have been flooded and at-risk areas evacuated across England and Wales after the downpours brought to the UK by Storm Dennis. Kate Marks of the Environment Agency (EA) said while Storm Dennis had passed, “we’ll be feeling the impacts for a few more days”. “There’s a lot more water in the river systems. In particular we are worried about the Rivers Severn, Teme and Wye,” Dr Marks said.  Both the Rivers Wye and Severn will remain especially high into the weekend, after both broke records this week.

Boris Johnson’s Greenest Government Evah has come up with a brilliant new excuse to duck its responsibilities for all the floods now swamping parts of Britain: climate change ate our homework. From Hereford to Shrewsbury and South Wales to North Yorkshire, swathes of Britain are underwater thanks to flooding in the aftermath of Storm Dennis, which so far has claimed five lives. There are currently more than 400 flood warnings around Britain, with more heavy rain forecast to come. But the government has effectively absolved itself of responsibility by pinning the blame on ‘climate change.’


Furious parents have written to Nicola Sturgeon attacking the SNP’s “degrading” cap on university places for Scots after their children missed out despite getting straight As in their exams. The letters and emails to Ms Sturgeon and John Swinney, sent last year and obtained by the Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act, describe the system as an “absolute disgrace” and a “joke”. In one email to the First Minister, an aggrieved parent advised her to “stop thinking up ridiculous schemes like the baby box and the named person” and increase funded places for Scottish youngsters instead.

ITV News
Ian Murray has said that “nobody understands Scotland” in Labour’s deputy leadership race. Mr Murray, speaking exclusively to the PA news agency, said that discussing the importance of Scotland had only been raised by candidates for the position after he entered the contest. The Edinburgh South MP, the only remaining Scottish Labour MP, also said that Rebecca Long-Bailey – running to be leader of the party – had so far failed to speak to him about Scotland. “Nobody understands Scotland and they still don’t. When you mention Scotland, everyone runs as far as they possibly can,” Mr Murray told PA at his Westminster office.

Rail travel

A crime gang sold commuters millions of pounds worth of counterfeit train tickets which could open barriers at London stations, a court heard, as they were jailed for 24 years. The sophisticated scheme involved printing weekly and monthly tickets for travel across the capital and cost rail companies around £8 million while it operated between 2016 and 2019. Ringleaders used blank tickets, card readers, computer programs and printers to produce fake passes which had their magnetic strips manipulated to fool the ticket barriers. The passes were made to look as if they had been issued at Stratford station, but police raided a house in Brentford and found nearly 60,000 blank tickets, which if turned into counterfeits could fetch up to £20million.

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