Brexit

Independent
Theresa May is on a collision course with Brussels as it emerged a draft EU Brexit agreement will probably ignore a string of key demands she has made. The draft withdrawal document to be published on Wednesday will state that EU citizens must retain full rights during the Brexit transition period, and that the UK must remain subject to European court rulings indefinitely. The paper outlining the moves, that fly in the face of the Prime Minister’s demands, comes just days before Ms May is set to make her biggest speech on Brexit since last year. Conservative ministers Liam Fox  and Boris Johnson both made interventions underlining how the Government would be not seeking a relationship involving a customs union with Europe after Brexit. Speaking ahead of publication of the EU’s draft withdrawal agreement, the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned there are still disputes about how the transition should work.

Mail
Liam Fox today insisted Brexit will slash costs of clothes and food for families – after his former trade chief warned that leaving the EU is like swapping a banquet for a ‘packet of crisps’. The International Trade Secretary dismissed calls for the UK to stay in a customs union with the EU – saying it would stop the UK lowering tariffs on day-to-day products. He warned that giving up control over trade would leave Britain as ‘rule takers’ and ‘sell out’ the public’s verdict from the referendum. And he launches a scathing attack on  Jeremy Corbyn‘s backing for a customs union with the EU – saying this amounts to a ‘betrayal’ of voters. Dr Fox also lashed out at Sir Martin Donnelly, the ex-top mandarin at his own department, who has ridiculed his former boss’s plans to quit the EU customs union and single market.  Sir Martin compared giving up access to the single market to ‘rejecting a three course meal now in favor of the promise of a packet of crisps later’.

ECJ

Times
Brussels will start a new row with Britain over Brexit talks today by insisting that the European Court of Justice is the arbiter of disputes during the transition period. The European Commission will publish a draft withdrawal and transition agreement that sets out the EU’s terms for Brexit to be negotiated over the next seven months. Sources in Brussels said that the draft withdrawal treaty would “designate the European Court of Justice (ECJ) as the authority for the interpretation and enforcement of the withdrawal agreement”. The demand means that the ECJ would be the arbiter of disputes over the terms of withdrawal, including rights for EU citizens and their families. It would place Britain under the authority of European judges for decades to come.

Westmonster
The EU will demand that Brexit Britain be subject to rulings from the European Court of Justice indefinitely, according to the Financial Times. The text of the “governance mechanism” is due to be presented tomorrow, however, according to officials who have seen it, any Brexit agreement will require Britain to accept the ECJ as the ‘ultimate arbiter’ of disputes. Failure to comply with rulings could see the UK face sanctions such as having it’s access to the Single Market cut off. So, basically, the EU wants the ECJ not only to dictate the law to a sovereign nation in Brexit Britain, it has also threatened to hold the UK to ransom if it dares disagree with the court’s rulings… Brexit hero Jacob Rees-Mogg slammed the proposal, telling the FT: “I think the EU is going to suggest some things that the British government will reject this week and this sounds like one of them…It would turn us from a vassal state into a convict state, sentenced to hard labour for our love of democracy.”

Northern Ireland

Telegraph
Boris Johnson has suggested that Northern Ireland may have to accept enhanced border checks after Brexit in a leaked letter to the Prime Minister. The Foreign Secretary suggested that “even if a hard border is reintroduced” in Ireland, it would not significantly affect trade across the UK’s land border with the EU, in an apparent 
reversal of his previous position. Mr Johnson said as recently as 
November that returning to a hard border was “unthinkable” and would be “economic and political madness”. Mr Johnson’s letter, which was written after Theresa May’s Brexit “war Cabinet” discussed the border issue on Feb 7.

Mirror
BORIS Johnson suggested Northern Ireland may need to accept a hard border with the Republic after Brexit, in a letter to Theresa May leaked tonight. It came as the EU prepared to release their draft of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, which could move to effectively keep Northern Ireland inside the EU customs area. Irish broadcaster RTE tonight cited a “well placed EU source” for a leaked summary of the legal language for Mrs May’s Brexit withdrawal agreement, negotiated with Brussels in December. It would create a “single regulatory space” on the island of Ireland, with no border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Mail
The Foreign Secretary came under fire last night after leaked documents suggested he had questioned the importance of the Irish border issue. In a leaked letter to Theresa MayBoris Johnson suggested he would be willing to accept a so-called ‘hard border’ between Northern Ireland and the Republic if other solutions failed. Mrs May has repeatedly insisted she will not accept a hard border involving inspection posts and checkpoints, following warnings this could undermine the Northern Ireland peace process. But in the letter, Mr Johnson wrote that it was wrong to see the task as maintaining ‘no border’ on the island of Ireland after Brexit, saying the Government’s task was to ‘stop this border becoming significantly harder’. 

Express
THE EU plan to threaten Theresa May’s Brexit plan later today, warning that Northern Ireland must sign up to Brussels’ rules and regulations if the UK wishes to leave the single market and customs union. It is believed that France and Germany have blocked British plans to continue “fudging” the issue and now insist on a legal agreement set to spark an “explosive row” over the next few days. The DUP – which props up the Conservative minority Government in Westminster – will strongly oppose the EU’s proposal. UK Brexit negotiators are said to be worried that the hardline stance from Brussels has left them unable to negotiate. It is understood that the approach will be set out in the European Commission’s draft withdrawal agreement.

Reuters
EU negotiator Michel Barnier accused the British government on Tuesday of clinging to “illusion” while time runs out for a Brexit deal to avoid massive disruption when Britain leaves the European Union next year. Speaking after briefing ministers from the other 27 EU states and ahead of publication on Wednesday of a first draft of a withdrawal treaty that officials say will cross many British red lines, Barnier returned to a familiar mantra that had become muted after an interim deal with London two months ago. “The clock is ticking. I am worried by the time, which is short,” he told reporters, referring to an October target for agreeing a treaty, including a transition period, in time for it to be ratified before Brexit in March 2019.

Independent
Northern Ireland must continue to abide by EU regulations after Brexit in order to guarantee there will not be a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, Guy Verhofstadt has said. The European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator said there should be “no divergence” between Northern Ireland and its southern neighbour. 
Instead, “norms, rules and standards” must stay the same after Brexit, he said. The warning will come as a blow to Theresa May after senior Cabinet ministers agreed plans for “ambitious managed divergence” from EU rules after Brexit. Mr Verhofstadt said this was “unacceptable” to EU leaders. Speaking to MEPs on the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee, he said: “It is for us key that that there will be in future, whatever the outcome of the negotiations will be, that there is no divergence in norms, rules, standards between the north and Republic of Ireland.”

Times
Theresa May will warn Brussels not to use Brexit to break up the UK in a “robust” fightback against its insistence that Northern Ireland must remain in a customs union. The EU will today publish a new draft withdrawal agreement demanding that Mrs May sign up to legal commitments preventing a hard border in Ireland even if that means customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. It also states that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) must have the power to “interpret and enforce” the agreement against British objections. The prime minister has been told that failure to agree an outline of the text could jeopardise a transition agreement at next month’s European summit and stall talks on a future relationship.

Independent
Theresa May will warn Brussels she will not agree to “anything that threatens the constitutional integrity of the UK”, rebutting the suggestion Northern Ireland must continue to abide by EU regulations after Brexit. The European Commission will today publish a draft withdrawal agreement that is expected to say Northern Ireland may need to be considered part of EU customs territory when Britain leaves the bloc. The arrangement, which would be the so-called “default” option, would create a single regulatory space on the island of Ireland with no internal barriers. Ms May has been told failure to agree on the legal text will stall talks on the future of the UK-EU relationship.

Guardian
Theresa May is ready to warn the EU that she will not sign up to “anything that threatens the constitutional integrity of the UK” as Boris Johnson was accused of hinting that a hard border could be reintroduced in Ireland. A senior government source responded to reports that a legal document, to be finalised on Wednesday by the European Commission, would include a last resort scenario under which Belfast remained aligned with European single market rules. That suggestion would pile pressure on the relationship between the Conservative government and DUP – who they rely on for votes in parliament – as it could pave the way for new regulatory barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. “This is a draft negotiating position by the EU and not a final, binding text,” said a senior government source.

Telegraph
Guy Verhofstadt declared on Tuesday the European Parliament would fight to ensure that Northern Ireland remains subject to EU law after Brexit and heaped yet more pressure on Mrs May in a crunch week for the Prime Minister. British MEPs accused the parliament’s Brexit coordinator of “intolerable interference” in UK affairs and of trying to topple Theresa May’s government. Mr Verhofstadt, the parliament’s Brexit coordinator, told MEPs in the Constitutional Affairs Committee that it was the only way to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Star
The European Union is due to lay out its Brexit strategy for the first time later, which is likely to prompt debate over the question of the Irish border. The draft document is expected to say Northern Ireland might have to follow EU single market rules to avoid a “hard border”, in lieu of other solutions. Downing Street has dismissed any prospect of a return to a hard border. But the DUP has said if the Irish Sea became a trade border it would withdraw its support for the UK government. One of the party’s senior members, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, tweeted: “This fundamentally breaches the understanding reached in December and would undermine the constitutional status of NI in the Belfast Agreement. “If the EU or Dublin believes the UK government will be signing up to a border in the Irish Sea, they are deluded. Taoiseach (the Irish prime minister) knows that.”

Telegraph
Michel Barnier has demanded that David Davis comes to Brussels for emergency talks to salvage UK-EU negotiations over the Brexit transition deal. The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator laid down the gauntlet to the British Brexit Secretary, who has not been in the EU’s capital since early December last year, after meeting with EU-27 Europe ministers on Tuesday. He warned that the European Commission would on Wednesday publish legal documents demanding Northern Ireland remained shackled by EU red tape if an Irish hard border proved inevitable.

Express
MICHEL Barnier has called for urgent talks with senior Tory David Davis today to kick start the stalled Brexit negotiations. In an outburst that triggered irritation in Whitehall, the EU chief negotiator claimed there were still “significant points of disagreement” about the UK’s transition arrangements for leaving the bloc. He also threatened to scrap the proposed transition period, expected to be up to two years, unless the row could be resolved quickly. “The clock is ticking,” the Brussels diplomat said at a news conference. He added: “Time is short. I am concerned because of the shortage of time between now and the autumn when we are going to have to conclude an agreement with the UK.”

Sun
THE EU’s chief negotiator has summoned David Davis to Brussels for crisis talks as he warned Britain’s Brexit demands are “pure illusion”. And Michel Barnier said he was “concerned” that only a short time remains to iron out “significant points of disagreement” ahead of the October deadline for finalising a legally-binding withdrawal agreement. He also slammed the UK for trying to “cherry pick” what it wants from its relationship with Brussels and accused the Government of wanting an “open-ended” transitional deal. Mr Barnier backed European Council President Donald Tusk’s dismissal as “pure illusion” of the proposals for a long-term UK-EU relationship thrashed out by Theresa May at Chequers last week.

Labour Party

Mail
Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to endorse staying in a customs union with the EU provoked derision in one of Labour’s key northern strongholds yesterday. Many families in Doncaster – a town synonymous with heavy industry, mining and the railways – have backed the party for generations. But after the South Yorkshire town heavily backed Leave in the 2016 referendum, many locals feel Labour no longer represents their views. Mother-of-two Beverley Smith, 55, a retail manager, said: ‘Corbyn is wrong. There’s a big wide world out there we can trade with. The people voted heavily for  Brexit because they know what they want. ‘I know quite a few who voted Conservative for the first time in the general election last year.

NHS

Times
Patient satisfaction with GPs is at its lowest since records began 35 years ago. Overall satisfaction with the NHS has also dropped sharply in the past year, according to a report based on the British Social Attitudes Survey, compiled by leading health think tanks. The proportion of people saying that they were satisfied with the health service fell 6 percentage points last year, to 57 per cent, while dissatisfaction reached 29 per cent, the highest for a decade. Unhappiness, the report said, was driven by negative views about the resources being given to the NHS, with respondents citing staff shortages, long waiting times, lack of funding and government reforms as main concerns.

Mail
Public satisfaction with GP services has dropped to an all-time low, a study has found. Difficulties in getting appointments, rushed consultations and seeing different doctors every visit has resulted in people falling out of love with the ‘jewel in the crown of the NHS‘, experts said.  The British Social Attitudes survey for 2017 found just 65 per cent were satisfied with GP services – the lowest level since the survey began in 1983. Contentment with the NHS overall is also falling, with 29 per cent saying they were dissatisfied. The report said staff shortages, long waiting times and a perceived lack of funding – and how the Government responds to this – are the top concerns.

Drugs

Telegraph
Nearly all cannabis on Britain’s streets is now super-strength skunk that could be fuelling the rise in mental health problems, scientists have warned.
Researchers at  King’s College London tested almost 1,000 police seizures from Kent, Derbyshire, Merseyside, Sussex and the capital in 2016 and found 94 per cent were of a dangerously high potency. In 2005 just 51 per cent of cannabis sold on the street was sinsemilla, also known as skunk. Dr Marta Di Forti, Medical Research Council Clinician Scientist at King’s College warned that the powerful drug placed Britain’s 2.1 million cannabis users at risk of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, psychosis, delusions and hallucinations.

Times
Almost all cannabis sold on British streets can cause psychosis after weaker forms were driven from the market. The most potent “skunk” accounts for 94 per cent of all cannabis seized by police, up from half in 2005, according to the first study for almost a decade. Dealers are thought to be pushing higher-strength products to get recreational users hooked, with the milder hashish form barely available, researchers say. Teenager cannabis smokers have been told that skunk is more dangerous and that they must watch out for paranoia and other symptoms of psychosis. Skunk, also known as sinsemilla, is made from unpollinated cannabis and contains higher levels of THC, a psychoactive compound, than herbal marijuana or resin, also known as hashish.

UKIP

UKIP
UKIP interim leader, Gerard Batten MEP, last night announced the first three members of his new leadership team, saying he was “choosing people with strength in depth” and “who showed a true desire to move the party forward.”  Speaking in London, Mr Batten said, “I am pleased to announce that Former UKIP South-West Chairman, Mr Tony McIntyre, has been selected as UKIP’s Interim Party Chairman. “Tony has worked tirelessly and expertly for UKIP in the South-West of England and brings a wealth of political and people management experience to the role. I am in no doubt that Tony will quickly settle into his new role and start to move UKIP in a positive direction. “I am also very pleased to announce that Margot Parker MEP has agreed to support Mr McIntyre by becoming UKIP’s Deputy-Chairwoman. Margot brings a great deal of political and media experience to the chairmanship, along with a famously cool head and her sharp analytical abilities. “I am convinced that Tony and Margot will quickly become a dedicated and formidable team, who will achieve great things in rebuilding UKIP’s reputation and political credibility. Mr Batten continued, “I also have the great pleasure to announce the appointment of Mike Hookem MEP as my deputy leader.

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