Theresa May will urge Britons to come together when she triggers Article 50 today. In a statement to MPs, the Prime Minister will say now is the time for national unity to achieve the best possible Brexit deal. She will say we should be ‘no longer defined by the vote we cast, but by our determination to make a success of the result’. ‘We are one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future,’ she will add. ‘Now that the decision has been made to leave the EU, it is time to come together.’ Sat in the cabinet office of Downing Street, May last night signed her name under the watchful eye of Sir Robert Walpole, the country’s first ever Prime Minister.

Theresa May will today appeal to Britons to unite before embarking on the “momentous journey” out of the European Union as she begins what many regard as the biggest political shake-up since the Second World War. The prime minister promises a “bright future” at the end of formal negotiations that will redefine the country’s relationship with its closest neighbours. They follow a divisive national debate over the referendum. Shortly after 4.30pm yesterday, Mrs May signed a letter notifying the European Council of Britain’s intention to leave the EU. Once the letter is handed over today, two years of talks will begin on the terms of withdrawal allowed under Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty.

Sky News
Theresa May will strike a conciliatory tone as she invokes Article 50 this afternoon, offering a partnership with the rest of the European Union and imploring Britain to “come together”. The Prime Minister will formally launch the process for the UK to leave the European Union in a letter that will be hand delivered to European Council President Donald Tusk at around 12.30pm. After marking out hard lines on future payments to the European Union and the influence of EU law after Brexit, the text of the Prime Minister’s letter is expected to offer some room for manoeuvre in negotiations. Addressing MPs in the Commons as the letter is delivered, Mrs May will vow to “represent EU nationals who have made this country their home”.

Divorce’ demand

Brussels is set to make the huge demand to cover the bloc’s ‘liabilities’ after Theresa May triggers the formal Brexit process tomorrow. But the settlement is gearing up to be a major obstacle that could derail negotiations before they get properly under way. Ministers have indicated they will not agree to hand over more than a few billion pounds, and have received advice that they are under no legal obligation to pay anything.  Mr Davis has delivered the clearest message yet that the government will resist the demand as he said he did not expect to see ‘that sort of money change hands’. Speaking on a BBC Question Time Brexit special last night, Mr Davis said: ‘The Prime Minister said we are coming to the end of the time when we are paying enormous sums to the EU. ‘We will, of course, meet our international obligations but we expect also our rights to be respected too.
Germany has warned it will take Britain to the International Court of Justice if it refuses to pay its £50bn Brexit ‘divorce bill’. A second threat to launch a legal battle at The Hague was revealed in a leaked strategy document prepared for Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister. Mr Schäuble’s department is convinced that Britain is “not only politically but also legally obliged to pay its debts”, 
The Times reported. “Great Britain pays for its share just like the other member states,” the paper says – insisting that must happen at the start of the Brexit negotiations. Britain is bound by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, signed in 1970, which governs what happens when states terminate treaty commitments, it said – with any disputes heard at The Hague.


The Scottish Parliament has tonight voted to demand a new Scottish independence referendum in defiance of Theresa May‘s warning ‘now is not the time’. MSPs voted 69 to 59 in favour after Nicola Sturgeon warned she will not back down if Mrs May ignores her demand for a fresh Scottish independence vote. Immediately after MSPs voted, Scotland Secretary David Mundell insisted the UK Government’s position had not changed and negotiations on a referendum would not start until after Brexit was finished. MPs and Peers must vote for a new referendum for it to be legitimate but despite tonight’s events in Edinburgh, Mrs May is not required to call a vote in London. The standoff means Miss Sturgeon will have to follow through on her warning to ‘take steps’ against the PM after Easter to defend the will of the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish parliament has backed Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second independence referendum, in a landmark vote that could eventually see Scotland leave the UK. The vote, which was postponed until Tuesday following the attack on Westminster last week, was passed by MSPs in Holyrood by 69 to 59 – providing the Scottish First Minister with the mandate to seek a second referendum between autumn 2018 and spring 2019. Ms Sturgeon’s minority government was able to win the vote after the Scottish Green Party backed the move, which was described as “deeply regrettable” by the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. But Theresa May has already ruled out holding a second referendum on Scotland’s future while the Brexit negotiations are underway adding, “now is not the time” for another vote.


School funding cuts are threatening to undermine the quality of education in England’s classrooms, putting children’s academic progress at risk as head teachers struggle to find savings, finds a highly critical report. MPs on the Commons public accounts committee (PAC) say schools in England are facing the most significant financial pressure since the mid-1990s, with school leaders having to find £3bn in savings by 2020. Meg Hillier, the Labour chair of the PAC, accused the government of collective delusion about the scope for further efficiency savings and warned: “Pupils’ futures are at risk if the DfE fails to act on the warnings in our report.”

The chief analyst at the Department for Education (DfE) has estimated that just two pupils in England are likely to get all top grades in the new GCSEs being phased in from this summer. In recent years, parents, pupils and teachers have become accustomed to a sizeable number of the highest-achieving students in the most academically successful schools gaining all straight A*s in their GCSE examinations. But according to Dr Tim Leunig, who is also chief scientific adviser to the DfE, the new, more rigorous exams – which will be graded from 9-1 rather than A*-G – with 9 as the highest – will mean very few pupils are able to gain straight 9s in all their subjects.


ANGELA Merkel has warned German carmakers she will put the remaining EU members’ interests first in Brexit talks. The German chancellor has set out the German approach to Brexit negotiation as preserving EU unity and the organisation’s achievements, notably the single market. BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen have reportedly been briefed by the German chancellor’s office that their commercial interests in Britain cannot take precedence. The German carmakers are said to be bracing themselves for potential new era of trade tariffs with a post-Brexit Britain. Matthias Wissmann, head of Germany’s VDA vehicle industry group, said: “Everything must be done to allow the unfettered flow of goods and services. “But there is one clear priority — we must stand together among the 27 EU member states.”

MEPs will block any Brexit deal unless EU citizens who move to the UK up to 2019 are granted the right to stay and work, the European Parliament’s chief negotiator has said. Guy Verhofstadt vowed to fight any attempt by Britain to set tomorrow – the day for triggering Article 50 – as the “cut-off date” for the free movement of people. Both the Parliament and the Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, are concerned by reports that No 10 will designate 29 March 2017 as the landmark date. If so, EU nationals moving to the UK for the next two years, until Brexit is completed, would have weaker rights than those already in the UK – even if the rights of existing citizens are eventually guaranteed. A five-page resolution setting out the Parliament’s red lines – to be voted on next Wednesday – will rule out any “degradation” of the rights of EU nationals arriving in the UK over the next two years.

The European parliament will veto any Brexit deal that prevents EU citizens who move to the UK during the next two years from having the same rights to live and work in Britain as those already in the country. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and MEPs are understood to be concerned by reports that the British government wants 29 March, when it officially notifies the EU of its intention to leave, to be the “cut-off date” for the free movement of people. The issue was discussed at a meeting between Barnier and senior MEPs on Monday night. A five-page resolution detailing the European parliament’s red lines, which will be voted on next Wednesday, was subsequently amended specifically to rule out any “degradation” of the rights of EU nationals arriving in the UK over the next two years.

The large shortfall in the EU’s back pocket is likely to become a bigger and bigger issue for the bloc. Those in Brussels are not exactly well-known for reigning in their largess and with the UK cash cow out of the door soon, other countries are making it plain that they won’t be stumping up. The Danish Finance Minister Kristian Jensen has insisted that his country won’t be ploughing money into the European Union post-Brexit and that the bloc should reconsider how much it is spending. “The important thing is what Denmark has to pay. And I don’t think we should pay one krone more than we do now. “The EU must make sure that it adjusts its cost according to the income sources it has. Including after Brexit,” he said.

The EU’s chief negotiator has warned it will crush Theresa May’s hopes of a new trade deal if she slashes business taxes, workers’ rights and environmental standards. Michel Barnier said an “ambitious free-trade agreement” was possible if the two sides can first reach agreement on the ‘divorce bill’, EU citizens’ rights and Northern Ireland’s border. But he warned it could only be agreed “provided that it ensures fair competition and guarantees high environmental, social and consumer protection standards”. The warning flows from the EU’s fears that Britain, under a Conservative Government, will embark on a “race to the bottom” after Brexit. Ministers will come under pressure to slash so-called ‘red tape’ to win a competitive advantage – partly to compensate for being out of the EU’s single market and customs union.

THE European Parliament is set to “play the bad cop” in the pending Brexit talks with Britain, despite it not having any formal role in negotiations. Strasbourg is poised to upset discussions over a divorce settlement as the UK withdraws from the European Union (EU) by using its power of veto, should the UK not adhere to the founding principles of the EU, officials have said. Pedro Lopez de Pablo, the spokesman for the European People’s Party (EPP) said: “The Parliament is ready to play the bad cop. We are going to be those who will complain about almost everything.” French MEP Jean Arthuis said: “The Parliament will be a moral authority on Brexit. It will be a tool to keep citizens informed, and nothing is better than public opinion to weigh on governments.” According to Mr Arthuis, the UK is going to try to “divide Europeans” as a way of “complicating things”. 
He added: “Parliament will have to control the executive power [and] so it is our role to make sure it does.”


NHS doctors may be stopped from providing travel vaccinations and prescriptions for hayfever tablets, indigestion remedies and omega 3 supplements under major cost-cutting plans. Coeliacs could also have to buy their own gluten-free food, which will no longer be available on the NHS as part of a proposed crackdown on “low value” prescription items available in supermarkets and over the counter for a fraction of the cost. NHS England hopes to save up to £400m a year under new national guidelines. A consultation will be launched next month after local health posses identified “significant areas” where savings could be made. The guidelines for clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will initially be developed around a set of 10 medicines deemed ineffective, unnecessary or inappropriate for the NHS.

Cancer patients will die in pain because of NHS cost-cutting plans, charities have warned. Scrapping prescriptions for “low-value” medicines would also harm people with coeliac disease and those in chronic pain, the campaigners claimed. Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, outlined his proposals to cut waste in the health service yesterday when he said that common painkillers, gluten-free foods and travel vaccines should no longer be available on prescription when patients could buy such products for themselves. Medicines that have cheaper alternatives should also not be prescribed. NHS bosses have identified ten products, costing £128 million a year, that they want doctors to stop prescribing, with further restrictions on other items being considered.

Fury erupted as health workers – from doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives to cleaners and porters – were told they will get a 1% pay rise. And angry union leaders said it was a ‘kick in the teeth’ as MPs will enjoy a 1.4% pay rise to £76,011 next week. Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public sector union Unison, said: “The pay of top judges and MPs has already breached the Government’s 1% limit. It’s high time ministers stopped penalising NHS employees and gave them a decent pay rise.” Union leaders said the public sector rise was “derisory” especially as fuel, food and transport costs were soaring, But the government said it had accepted the recommendations from Pay Review Bodies (PRB) for next year’s increases.

NURSES will get a “derisory” pay rise of less than £5 a week while MPs enjoy an £1,000 annual hike, it was announced yesterday. Most NHS staff including midwives, paramedics, cleaners and radiographers were handed a 1% rise which amounts to less than a fiver a week. The move was blasted by unions yesterday in the face of soaring inflation – now hitting 2.3 per cent. It comes as MPs pay swells by 1.4 per cent next month taking their pay from £74,962 to £76,011. Shadow health minister Justin Madders said the decision to extend the pay cap for another year was “totally self-defeating and unsustainable”. Unison spokeswoman Christina McAnea blasted the deal saying it would not halt the NHS’s staffing crisis.

Morning Star
NHS unions attacked the announcement of a below inflation 1 per cent pay award as a “bitter blow” for health workers yesterday. The government said that it had accepted the NHS Pay Review Body recommendation of a 1 per cent pay rise for health workers including nurses, midwives, cleaners and porters. However after six years of pay restraint and a 14 per cent real-terms loss of income, health unions said their members deserve better. Royal College of Nursing general secretary Janet Davies described the announcement as a “bitter blow” for nurses in England. She said: “The government will deter new people from joining the nursing profession at the very moment it is failing to retain staff and European colleagues in particular head for the door.”


Just days after quitting UKIP, Douglas Carswell MP has confirmed the reason he left the Conservatives was “to make sure that UKIP didn’t run the referendum campaign”. He also slammed UKIP members for expressing a “Britain’s-gone-to-the-dogs Eurosceptism” and implied former party leader Nigel Farage is a “shock Jock” that gets too much airtime, urging voters to be “more discerning as to who we listen to”. “Leaving the European Union has consistently been the lone star around which everything has orbited,” he told the 
Evening Standard on Monday. During the referendum campaign, he supported the establishment Vote Leave group, rather than the Leave.EU group back by Mr. Farage and most of UKIP. I wanted Britain to leave the European Union. I correctly understood that in order to force David Cameron into giving us a referendum, it was necessary to join UKIP – to make sure the right people ran the right sort of campaign.

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