MPs on all sides rejected a petition signed by 137,731 people to leave the EU immediately, in a Commons debate. Brexit minister Suella Fernandes hailed the “total consensus” on display. Some MPs, such as Leave-supporting Tory Paul Scully, said they understood the frustrations of people who had signed the petition and said their views should be respected. But none spoke in favour of the petition’s call to leave now with no deal, during the three-hour debate. Most of the leading Eurosceptics on the Conservative benches did not attend, leaving the floor clear for Remain-supporting SNP, Lib Dem and Labour MPs – and Conservatives from both sides of the Brexit debate. The petition, which was launched in September, called on the government to “walk away from the Article 50 negotiations and leave the EU immediately with no deal”.
MPs have rejected a petition, signed by 137,000 people, calling on the government to get a move on with delivering the will of the people and pull Britain out of the shambolic EU immediately. People are clearly feeling let down by Theresa May’s pathetic approach to Brexit so far. Continuing free movement of people and ECJ jurisdiction over UK courts for years to come is not the Brexit the public voted for. The petition, which was launched in September, called for the government to “walk away from the Article 50 negotiations and leave the EU immediately with no deal”. It reads: “The EU looks set to offer us a punishment deal out of spite. Why wait another 18 months when we could leave right away and fully take back control of our country, lawmaking powers and borders?”
Conservative MPs have told Theresa May Britain must not be bound by EU rules during the Brexit transition period, after it was claimed in Brussels that the UK had already “agreed in principle” to a Norway-style deal. One warned it would be seen as a “failure” if the UK had to accept EU regulation and the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction in the transition. Leading figures on the right of the party spoke out after The Independent reported comments from a senior European parliamentarian who said British officials had not objected to the arrangement in meetings. Plans said to have been accepted by the UK side would mean the country keeping full access to the single market but accepting free movement and customs union rules. Jacob Rees-Mogg told The Independent: “If civil servants are doing that then they are surreptitiously wiping out the Prime Minister’s red lines.
A BID by peers to keep Britain under the rule of Euro judges after Brexit would be an act of “political suicide,” Lords grandees have warned. The crucial EU Withdrawal Bill arrives in the House of Lords next week but crossbench peer and former top diplomat Lord Jay predicted colleagues could impose a raft of defeats on the Government. He warned Theresa May her pledge to remove the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK could be defeated. Peers could also open up the prospect of Britain staying in the EU beyond March 2019 by removing the exact date and time Britain leaves the EU – in order to give more flexibility to the negotiating timetable. And Lord Jay – speaking at the Institute of Government yesterday – predicted peers could also defeat the Government by maintaining the scope of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
France is to offer language lessons to London-based bankers and their families in its latest ploy to lure business from the UK capital to Paris after Brexit. Paris will beef up bilingual schools for children of “impatriates” when they arrive as well as opening a special English-speaking hotline to help them navigate the confusing French education system. In another move to tempt financial sector workers to cross the Channel when Britain leaves the European Union, the French government has pledged to temporarily exempt foreign executives from paying into state pension schemes. The fresh Gallic charm offensive came amid reports that French president Emmanuel Macron may have scored another point against Theresa May by becoming the first foreign leader to be invited by Donald Trump to the US for a state visit. The White house and the Elysée Palace declined to comment the CNN claims.
BRUSSELS has brutally shut down British hopes of bringing in a new immigration system on Brexit day. EU politicians said there will be “no discussion” about cutting off automatic residency rights for their citizens in 2019. They insisted Britain will have to accept “the whole” European rulebook “and nothing else” during the two year transition. The hardline demands came despite British ministers insisting that free movement will end completely next year. Theresa May is seeking a two-year implementation period on membership terms which will see EU citizens allowed to carry on moving to Britain. However, the Government wants its offer of permanent residence to those Europeans already in Britain to apply only up to Brexit day. The EU says that demand is unacceptable and is insisting the right is extended to anybody present in the UK up to the end of the transition. Speaking in the EU Parliament, Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said the transition will mean “the continuation of membership without the possibility to decide” on the rules.
MICHEL Barnier has gloatingly warned Britain of the “difficulties” it will face negotiating an EU trade deal – with any one of the 27 other member states and 11 regional parliaments able to veto a final agreement. A post-Brexit free trade agreement with the EU could be vetoed if the UK insists on the freedom to diverge from European standards and regulations, Brussels’s chief negotiator warned today. Michel Barnier‘s comments sparked fury among Brexiteers, who accused him of having “no intention” of ever securing a good deal. Speaking at the Spanish Parliament in Madrid today, Mr Barnier said any deal which failed to preserve a level regulatory playing field would face “difficulties” in securing the ratification of national and regional parliaments – including his homeland of France. Up to 38 national and regional legislatures in the EU will hold a veto on any trade deal and any one of them has the power to block it, he said.
An influential European Parliament committee has backed a plan that would shrink the size of the elected body– and also potentially see some MEPs elected by voters across Europe instead of one designated country. Britain currently elects 73 MEPs to the 751-member parliament, and the country’s impending departure from the bloc has left Brussels wondering what should be done with the seats after Brexit. Under the proposal voted for by the Constitutional Affairs Committee on Tuesday, the EU’s Parliament would reduce from 751 to 705 members, using up 46 of the spare seats. A further 27 of Britain’s former seats will be redistributed between existing member states delegations in a bid to compensate for any biases in the allocation of MEPs.
The Union flag will be “eradicated” from Scottish government buildings after Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP administration ordered that it be flown only once a year. The British flag will fly from dozens of government buildings only on Remembrance Sunday and not, as has traditionally been the case, on royal birthdays and anniversaries. It means that the flag will fly on just one day a year rather than the 15 times it was hoisted last year. MPs in Westminster said the new guidance issued by the First Minister’s civil servants was “outrageous” and accused the SNP of “small mindedness” and a “tawdry attempt to sow more division”.
Nicola Sturgeon was accused of snubbing the Queen last night in a move to ‘eradicate the Union Flag’ in Scotland. The SNP government has ruled the banner should no longer be raised for the Queen’s birthday at dozens of public buildings. It had been hoisted at key official and heritage sites 15 days a year to mark royal birthdays and anniversaries. But a proposed rule change will allow it to be used only once a year, on Remembrance Day. The rainbow flag – the symbol of the gay community – will be flown for four days a year. Officials wanting to hoist the Union banner were warned they would need First Minister Miss Sturgeon’s permission. The decision, which she has ratified, was last night branded ‘churlish and stupid’. Murdo Fraser, a Conservative MSP, said: ‘Nicola Sturgeon’s always keen to stress that her civic nationalism is nothing to do with flags and banners.
Scotland has denied reports that it has changed its flag policy amid reports the Union flag will no longer be flon from its buildings on certain occasions. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Lion Rampant flag, the Royal Banner of Scotland, has been flown from government buildings instead of the Union flag for royal birthdays and anniversaries since 2010. Reports in the Daily Mail and the Telegraph said published guidance has been changed for 2018 to only fly the Union flag on Remembrance Day. The Scottish Government said the published guidance has been updated by officials to reflect actual practice since 2010 and the Union flag will be flown on the same number of days in 2018 as previous years. “There has been no recent change whatsoever to the policy or practice relating to the flags that are flown from government buildings,” a spokeswoman said.
Boris Johnson is not the only one with ambitions for a bold new bridge. Yesterday the Democratic Unionist Party called for a link over the Irish Sea joining Scotland and Northern Ireland. Leading figures in the party, which has a confidence and supply agreement with the Conservatives, revived calls for a 25-mile bridge or tunnel between Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway and Larne in Co Antrim. At up to £20 billion, the estimated cost would rank among the biggest infrastructure projects in UK history and would dwarf the £1 billion secured by the DUP for supporting Theresa May’s government in key Commons votes after the Conservatives lost their majority in last year’s snap election.
First Boris Johnson called for a bridge between France and England. Now politicians across the Irish Sea want a 25-mile link between Northern Ireland and Scotland. Leading figures in the Democratic Union Party have revived calls for a bridge or tunnel between Larne in County Antrim and Dumfries and Galloway. The estimated £20billion cost of the project dwarfs the £1billion promised to the DUP by Theresa May as part of a deal to shore up seats in Parliament. The DUP demanded a feasibility study into a Northern Ireland-Scotland link during its 2015 general election campaign. It has now been revived by senior DUP MP Sammy Wilson, who claims a link would ‘have a major positive impact on both countries economically’.
Labour’s governing body has taken the highly unusual step of asking a Labour-led council to halt its flagship housing redevelopment scheme. The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) requested Haringey Council put a stop to the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), a major regeneration plan that will see £2bn of public assets transferred to a private fund partly managed by a major property developer. Concerns about the controversial plan were raised at the first Labour NEC meeting following the election to the committee of three left-wing candidates. The new members were all backed by the Momentum campaign group and include Jon Lansman, the organisation’s chairman. During the meeting, a motion tabled by Jim Kennedy from the Unite trade union was toned down until a version was agreed and, sources told The Independent, unanimously passed by the committee’s members. The original motion was amended to turn it from an instruction into a request, and to apply only if mediation talks on the HDV fail, a Labour source said.
Labour’s National Executive Committee has called on the party’s councillors in a north London borough to halt a controversial housing project. It has advised Labour-run Haringey to pause the project – which has split the local party – if mediation aimed at overcoming the divisions fails. The project is opposed locally by pro-Corbyn pressure group Momentum. The NEC was meeting for the first time since Momentum founder Jon Lansman was elected as one of its members. The public private partnership to redevelop a large council estate has proved hugely divisive within the Haringey Labour Party.
The Momentum group of Labour activists will not campaign for the deselection of moderate MPs, its chairman has claimed. Jon Lansman denied reports that the group’s supporters had drawn up a deselection hit-list of 50 centrists, including Hilary Benn and Angela Eagle. “We have made it clear that we are not going to campaign to deselect anyone, at all, anywhere,” he said. But the veteran left-winger said it was up to local constituency parties if they wanted to activate the little-used “trigger ballot” process to prevent their MP from standing as a candidate at the next general election. No Labour MP who “listens to their members” should have anything to fear from the process, he said.
Black and ethnic minority Labour MPs have expressed concern after a Guardian analysis revealed Labour has picked just one ethnic minority candidate in 28 of the most marginal seats where candidates have been selected to fight the next general election. Labour MP David Lammy, who recently led a review into diverse representation, said the figures were “disappointing” and that Labour had to improve. “I’m proud that the Labour party has led the way in improving the diversity of parliament, and we can not afford to go backwards. To represent modern Britain we have to reflect modern Britain,” he said. Operation Black Vote’s director Simon Woolley said he was concerned that all-women shortlists had meant experienced BME male candidates were being dislodged, and had become so concerned he had written to Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol. Woolley said he had been particularly concerned after Chingford and Woodford Green candidate Bilal Mahmood, who stood for the party in the last two elections and slashed Iain Duncan Smith’s majority, had been told he could not run again because the seat would have an all-women shortlist.
The greatest success of the NHS threatens to overwhelm it. Modern medicine has been hugely successful at keeping people alive, as the death rates from heart disease halve in a decade and cancer survival improves. Yet the result is an ever-growing number of people who not only need continuing treatment for these conditions, but now live long enough to get dementia or another disease on top. NHS leaders know what they need to do: the service must change from one centred on hospitals to one that makes better use of local clinics and modern technology to control long-term conditions. If an older person needs a hospital bed, that should not be the start of treatment, but a sign that it has already failed.
The number of people dying in England and Wales has reached the highest level since a devastating flu epidemic swept the country three years ago, new official figures showed yesterday. More than 15,000 deaths – the great majority of which were elderly people – were recorded in the second week of January, amid a wave of seasonal illnesses, freezing weather conditions, and reports of crisis conditions in NHS hospitals. It was the greatest weekly toll since January 2015, when the failure of flu vaccine contributed to the impact of an outbreak. The 15,050 deaths reported by the Office for National Statistics for the week that ended on Friday 12 January represented an 18 per cent increase on the 12,723 reported in the first week of the year. The mortality level is 14 per cent higher than the average of 13,167 deaths in the corresponding week over the past five years.
Cuts to the UK’s military forces have been put on ice after the National Security Council ordered a review of defence spending. Downing Street announced current spending plans, which military chiefs had warned could see the armed forces badly diminished, would be deferred until the new review was complete. The council (NSC) also ordered the creation of a new National Security Communications Unit to combat fake news, with Theresa May having warned that Russia has interfered in other countries elections. After weeks in which it was claimed that current plans would see cuts to the Royal Marines, regular troop numbers and amphibious assault ships, Theresa May’s spokesman confirmed the National Security and Capability Review (NSCR) would be published in late spring.