BRITAIN will be given just 14 months to negotiate its exit package with the EU, one of the bloc’s chief negotiators told Brexit secretary David Davis today. Arch federalist Guy Verhofstadt said the UK must be completely severed from the Brussels club before the next European Parliament elections, which take place in May 2019. And he insisted there would be a “window of more or less 14 or 15 months” in which to wrap up the complex negotiations, further raising the possibility of Britain and the EU striking a transitional deal to tide both parties over. Whilst London and Brussels could theoretically conclude basic trade terms within such a period, it would be almost impossible to renegotiate and reframe the vast web of cooperation on issues such as security.
An organisation working to thwart Brexit, set up by close allies of Tony Blair, has received tens of thousands of pounds from billionaire Richard Branson and the backing of singer Bob Geldof and senior Lib Dem and Labour MPs. A leaked email revealed the plotters have been “beavering away over the last few months” and hope the economy will falter and public opinion shift, presenting them with an opportunity to reverse or re-run the referendum. A million pound ($1.25 million) war chest has already been pledged to the campaign, which claims “substantial progress” has already been made, including the identification of “an excellent potential CEO”. The leaked memo, seen by the Independent, was written by one of Tony Blair’s closest cabinet allies, Alan Milburn, and Douglas Alexander and Lord Hutton of Furness, two other key figures from the Blair and Brown eras, are involved.
ANTI-EU campaigners today blasted the formation of “an unholy alliance” reportedly backed by Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson in a bid to scupper Brexit. Former leading New Labour Blairites are spearheading a new organisation which could push for a second referendum on European Union membership once a final Brexit deal is done. They hope the public will be tempted to rethink June’s referendum vote if the economy deteriorates and Britain fails to strike a favourable exit deal with the rest of the EU. Former Labour Cabinet ministers Alan Milburn, now chair of the Government’s Social Mobility Commission, Lord (John) Hutton of Furness and Douglas Alexander are said to be among the group’s members along with former advisers to their close ally Tony Blair and MPs from other parties.
ARROGANT Eurocrats sparked outrage on Tuesday by trying to bully the Brexit Secretary with tough talk and a “welcome to hell” greeting at crunch talks over Britain’s future. Furious Tories told Europe’s leaders to “wake up” after they insisted Britain would never be able to change free movement rules – and that we would only get 15 months to thrash out a deal. Brexit Secretary David Davis met German politician Manfred Weber and Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian leading the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiations, on Tuesday morning. MEPs will have a veto on any Brexit deal struck between Britain and the other 27 member states.
A UKIP MEP has demanded Theresa May take Britain out of the EU immediately as he dismissed the establishment for insisting Article 50 was the country’s only way out of Brussels. Gerard Batten, MEP for London, criticised the High Court’s ruling that the PM cannot begin the process of taking Britain out of the EU without a Parliamentary vote. Addressing the European Parliament on Monday, the Mr Batten said Britain was being “led up the garden path” as he said all the UK had to do to be free of Brussels shackles was to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972. If Parliament pushed through the repeal, often referred to as the Great Repeal Bill, it would end Brussels legal supremacy and convert EU legislation into British law. Mr Batten said: “The decision of the High Court demonstrates the British establishment’s desire to delay, impede and eventually prevent our exit from the EU.
NICOLA STURGEON’S hopes of blocking Brexit by securing a special deal with Brussels were dashed today as Norway said she had no power to negotiate with the European Union. Instead Oslo officials called for a friendly exit pact with the whole of Britain. The nation’s trade minister Monica Maeland said the meddling SNP chief has “no competence” to strike a bargain with the rest of the EU and insisted Scotland will leave the bloc as part of the UK. Her remarks are the latest hammer blow to Ms Sturgeon’s increasingly farcical bid to keep Scotland in the bloc, which has met with a distinctly chilly response from EU leaders who have given her the cold shoulder.
EUROPE could be blown apart by a toxic cocktail of risks brewing within the bloc’s financial system, according to the Wall Street trader who correctly predicted the 2008 financial crisis. Steve Eisman, who inspired Hollywood film The Big Short, has warned Italy’s crippled lenders and large amounts of sovereign debt held by European banks are among the reasons the continent is facing total meltdown. The most immediate threat comes from the staggering £270billion worth of bad loans held by Italian banks, according to the legendary investor, who made £81million ($1bn) by betting against banks in the run up to the financial crash in 2008. While the guru said he wasn’t worried about Britain’s banks, he laid out a grim future for Europe.
The European Union risks missing its target of spending 20 percent of its budget on action to tackle climate change, the bloc’s financial watchdog said on Tuesday. There had been “no significant shift towards climate action” in key areas such as agriculture, rural development and fisheries, the European Court of Auditors said. The green benchmark for the 28-nation European Union’s current seven-year budget was agreed two years ago after difficult negotiations in Brussels. The findings will be a blow to the EU’s efforts to be seen as a global leader on climate issues as the world tries to implement the landmark Paris climate pact. “There is a serious risk that the EU’s target of spending at least one euro in every five on climate action between 2014 and 2020 will not be met,” said report author Phil Wynn Owen.
BLINKERED eurocrats still believe that Britain will not leave the European Union because of their successful record of overturning referendum results in the past, a top Tory has claimed today. Leading eurosceptic Daniel Hannan said two-thirds of the officials he meets in the Belgian capital are stubbornly insisting that Brexit won’t happen despite the result of the June 23 vote. The Brexit-backing MEP blasted the Brussels elite for failing to offer David Cameron “meaningful reforms” during his ill-fated attempt to secure a deal for Britain, saying this swung the referendum in favour of leaving. And he claimed most eurocrats believe bullying the UK and trying to frighten people is the best way of keeping the country in the bloc, adding that this represents a “serious misreading” of British character.
The British government has been given a blunt warning to stay out of the EU’s post-Brexit business by a senior leader in the European parliament, who lambasted Boris Johnson for his “unbelievable arrogance” and insisted Britain would have “no say any more” in the long-term future of Europe. Manfred Weber, the leader of the largest centre-right group in the European parliament, criticised the British foreign secretary for his support of Turkey’s EU membership, which has infuriated European politicians. The MEP spoke minutes after the European parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, said the UK may have only 14 months of proper negotiations to tie up its EU exit and pressed for talks to be completed by mid-2019.
Hundreds of thousands of British expats are set to be granted the right to carry on living on the Continent after Brexit after the majority of European Union countries signalled they were ready to do a “reciprocal rights” deal with the UK. Senior Government figures have told business leaders that only “a few” of the 27 EU member states are left to agree the outline of a reciprocal rights agreement for Britons in the EU, and EU nationals living in this country for when Britain leaves the EU. The Government said no deals had yet been struck, but the closeness of an informal understanding is leading to speculation that any deal will be announced at a key EU summit in Brussels next month.
OWEN SMITH has brazenly claimed it is acceptable to defy the “democratic will of the people” when MPs vote on triggering Article 50. The comments left fellow panellists on debate show The Agenda on ITV up in arms after the former Labour leadership candidate was asked by Piers Morgan if he was prepared to vote against the 17.4million people who voted Leave in the EU referendum. The Labour MP, who campaigned for Remain, replied: “Yes, in respect of this [Brexit ], I absolutely am. Because what I will be doing is exercising my duty in my view, my responsibility to act on behalf of my constituents.” Mr Smith was heckled by fellow panelist investment manager Gina Miller , who led the Article 50 High Court case, as she repeatedly shouted “Shame on you”. Morgan asked the MP if he thought it was okay to “defy democracy”.
THE “unsustainable” financial position of the NHS is affecting the services and care it provides, a National Audit Office (NAO) report acknowledged yesterday. The report reveals that two-thirds of NHS trusts are in deficit and an increasing number of clinical commissioning groups are failing to remain within their budgets. NHS trusts have received £1.8 billion in emergency funding this year, meaning that the real financial shortfall could be a record £2.65bn. NAO head Amyas Morse said the financial problems were “endemic” and “not sustainable,” blaming “aggressive efficiency targets” for the increasing number of NHS trusts falling into deficit.
A FRENCH terror suspect has cracked under pressure and revealed to cops where his group’s intended targets were. Seven suspects – of French, Moroccan and Afghan origin and aged between 29 and 38 – were arrested in the cities of Marseilles and Strasbourg overnight on Saturday and Sunday. One of the group has reportedly cracked – and revealed their intended targets. A theme park and an area described as having a “high number of police officers” were on the hit list, according to French media. France’s interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve told a televised news conference the arrested had prevented “a terrorist act that had been envisaged for long time on our soil”. Last weekend’s raids followed an eight-month investigation by French cops. Cops found an arsenal of weapons – including two handguns, an automatic pistol, a machine pistol.
LABOUR is putting itself on course to fight a snap general election, the party’s national executive committee (NEC) heard yesterday. The structure of the NEC was set to be debated at the meeting, but party bosses postponed this contentious discussion in favour of a report from Jon Trickett on Labour’s preparation for the ballot box. Labour has commissioned the polling company BMG for its own private research, while Krow Communications, the advertising and branding agency that promotes Team GB athletes, is also now under contract to the party. “The prospect of an early general election has accelerated our progress in bringing the Labour Party’s campaigning techniques up to date,” a senior party source said.