Brexit

Evening Standard
Boris Johnson is set for a showdown with the European Commission’s new president as they hold talks for the first time since she replaced Jean-Claude Juncker. The Prime Minister is expected to tell Ursula von der Leyen the UK wants a free trade agreement with the EU by the end of December this year, when the transition period is set to end. Mr Johnson insisted he will not push back the deadline, but critics claim that the timescale is too tight to reach a new deal. Their face-to-face meeting in Downing Street on Wednesday, the first since she took office, will also be attended by Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. Mr Barclay has vowed the Government will stick to its Brexit timetable as a number of opposition clauses to the bill were voted down on Tuesday evening. He said the Withdrawal Agreement Bill would deliver on the “overwhelming mandate” his party had been given by voters to take the UK out of the EU on 31 January.

Times
Boris Johnson will warn the new European Commission president today that he is prepared to walk away from the EU without a trade deal at the end of the year. Taking an uncompromising stance, the prime minister will tell Ursula von der Leyen that there are no circumstances under which the government would extend the transition period beyond December 2020. Under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, both sides have the option of requesting an extension of up to two years to the current trading relationship.

Mail
A new top Eurocrat will be warned by Boris Johnson today at No 10 that EU citizens will lose out if Brussels drags its feet on a post-Brexit trade deal. He will use his first official meeting with Ursula von der Leyen, now president of the European Commission, to insist he will not countenance any extension of the transition beyond the end of this year. Last night, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which also rules out any extension, was continuing its passage through the Commons.

Telegraph
The European Union has warned Boris Johnson not to water down protections for EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit, ahead of the first face-to-face meeting between the Prime Minister and Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, raised “issues of concern” in a letter to the Brexit Secretary Steven Barclay before Christmas, The Telegraph can disclose. The concerns included the need for a fully independent watchdog to enable EU citizens to make complaints against the Government.

Sky News
Boris Johnson is heading for a showdown with the new president of the European Commission in a clash over post-Brexit trade. The prime minister is meeting Ursula von der Leyen in Downing Street in their first face-to-face talks since she succeeded Jean-Claude Juncker. And Mr Johnson will tell the new Commission chief the UK wants a speedy post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, free from rules imposed by Brussels. The talks coincide with the government’s Brexit legislation, the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill, continuing its swift passage through the Commons this week.

Sun
BORIS Johnson will urge EU chief Ursula Von der Leyen to authorise trade talks to start immediately after Brexit in a crucial first meeting between the pair on Wednesday. The PM will host the new European Commission chief for crunch talks at No10. He will push her to issue a fresh mandate from the EU 27 to open formal negotiations for our future partnership with the EU on February 1. But Commission sources have said Ms Von der Leyen will raise the prospect of extending the transition period beyond December 2020 despite the PM’s move to make that scenario illegal.

Express
BORIS JOHNSON has been issued a desperate plea from the EU over protections for EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit. The desperate plea comes in the wake of the first face-to-face meeting between the Prime Minister and the new European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. In a letter to the Brexit Secretary Steven Barclay, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier raised “issues of concern”, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Guardian
The European parliament will express its “grave concern” about the attitude of Boris Johnson’s government to the 3.3 million EU citizens living in the UK following threats of deportation made by a British minister. In a leaked resolution drafted by the main political groups and due to be backed by MEPs next Wednesday, Johnson’s administration is accused of creating “anxiety” in recent months. The condemnation follows the comments of security minister Brandon Lewis, who threatened EU citizens with deportation from the UK if they do not apply for settled status before the deadline of 30 June 2021. The minister later claimed that his comments had been taken out of context, raising concerns about what the parliament’s political groups describe as “conflicting” announcements from Whitehall.

Whitehall

Telegraph
Boris Johnson has ordered his ministers to locate wasteful projects across Whitehall, even if it means “slaughtering sacred cows”. The Prime Minister told his Cabinet to review hundreds of legacy projects in their departments, and do go through their spending line by line. He warned that some officials would “squeal” and respond like tigers defending their cubs to proposed changes, which aim to “root out the waste” across government. Ministers will review their departmental projects and report to the Treasury with examples of projects which could be scrapped. The suggestions will feed in to the March Budget, as well as the long-term Spending Review later this year. A government source said Downing Street expected “squeals of protest” as “many, many, many legacy projects rumbling along in Whitehall” faced the axe.

Mail
Boris Johnson today launched a massive review of every ongoing government project to make sure each one represents value for money, with those judged to be a waste due to be axed or overhauled. The Prime Minister has tasked his entire Cabinet with assessing all of the work being done in their respective departments in a new war on frivolous spending. The review comes amid growing concerns about the cost of a number of big ticket government spending items, most notably the planned HS2 high speed railway line, and will inevitably spark speculation they could be axed.

Times
Boris Johnson has warned his cabinet that it is “time for the slaughtering of sacred cows” as he vowed to cull the pet projects of his predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron. Ministers were ordered yesterday to go through their spending line by line and send the Treasury suggestions for projects that could be cut or abandoned entirely. The prime minister said that they should push ahead with the cuts even though some officials would “squeal” and others would behave “like a tiger protecting its cubs”. The time had come for “tough decisions”, he said. It is understood that hundreds of legacy projects, some dating back to the coalition government under Mr Cameron, could come under review.

Mirror
Hundreds of Government projects could be scrapped amid a huge review of every scheme dreamt up by Whitehall. Treasury penny-pinchers ordered ministers to examine all projects currently on the books of every ministry to see if they offer value for money. Boris Johnson used today’s weekly Cabinet meeting to tell ministers to “root out waste” in departments as the Government focuses on the priorities set out in the Tories’ general election manifesto. Chancellor Sajid Javid and his deputy Rishi Sunak urged fellow Cabinet Ministers to look at where waste could be slashed in the run-up to the Budget on March 11.

EU

Breitbart
A new review of European Union (EU) money being spent in Libya to help curb the flow of migrants has shown that the money is actually lining the pockets of warlords and people-smuggling networks. The EU has spent millions of euros in recent years in order to stop the large-scale flow of illegal migrants from Libya. But according to a review of where the funds have ended up, much of the money has gone towards the very groups helping to facilitate illegal migration, Sverige Radio reports. So far, the political bloc has spent 327.9 million euros, with another 41 million earmarked in the future. While some of the money has gone through United Nations officials, internal emails revealed  by the Associated Press (AP) show that the officials knew some of the cash had been funnelled to criminals.

EU Observer
The European Parliament is preparing to vote on a resolution Wednesday accusing the UK of creating “anxiety” among the 3.3m EU citizens who live in the UK ahead of Brexit at the end of the month, British newspaper The Guardian reports. The draft text says EU residents may be at “risk of discrimination” by British employers and that not enough help was offered to “older and vulnerable” EU citizens there.

Social care

Mail
An overwhelming majority of voters want Boris Johnson to take urgent action to fix the social care crisis. A poll found almost three- quarters believe that the issue should be a high priority for his new government. It was ranked top of a list of problems needing action and has also been the focus of a Daily Mail campaign to end the neglect of families living with the burden of dementia. Mr Johnson has pledged to tackle the crisis but is yet to set out details. When asked about key policy issues, social care was ranked the most important as 73 per cent of voters said it should be a high priority.

Farage

Times
With the spotlight on diplomatic relations between the US and Britain after President Trump ordered the killing of Qasem Soleimani without informing No 10, Whitehall finally posted an advert for the job of our man in Washington. The government asked for applications for the role of British ambassador to the US, widely seen as the most prestigious within the diplomatic service, adding that they must come solely from existing members of the civil service. That ruled out speculation that there might be a political appointment. “The Foreign Office has this afternoon begun the process of recruiting the UK’s ambassador to the United States,” the prime minister’s spokesman said.

Mail
Brexiteer hopes of Nigel Farage becoming the UK’s new US ambassador have been dashed after it emerged the government is only accepting applications from existing civil servants.  The Brexit Party leader had been floated as a potential successor to Sir Kim Darroch who resigned last year in the wake of a diplomatic row over leaked memos.  Mr Farage was viewed by some as an ideal candidate for the job given his friendship with US President Donald Trump, amid speculation that Boris Johnson could make a political appointment.  But Downing Street today announced that a job advert had been placed on the civil service’s internal jobs portal – meaning only current civil servants can apply.

Education

Telegraph
The head of Ofsted has accused more than 400 schools of “failure of the highest order” as heads say that when it comes to raising standards, tough discipline is the answer. The schools watchdog estimates that around 210,000 children are being educated in “stuck” schools which have only been graded as “inadequate” or “requires improvement” since 2006.    In a major new report, Ofsted identified 415 “stuck” schools which have been “letting down children for over a decade”. The report said that in some parts of England, a pupil will go through their whole primary or whole secondary school life never “having attended a good school”, adding: “This is failure of the highest order. The whole school system has been letting down these children for over a decade.”

Times
Hundreds of thousands of children are taught in schools that have failed to offer a good education for almost 15 years. Ofsted  said that it wanted to help schools that were “stuck”, having not received a good or outstanding rating since 2006. There are 415 schools in that category, teaching 210,000 pupils. Since 2006 they will have educated about 400,000 children. One school had had 14 head teachers in ten years, the regulator said. Ofsted wants more powers and funding from government to help stuck schools to succeed.

Mail
More than 200,000 pupils are trapped in ‘dumping ground’ schools that have been failing for more than a decade. Ofsted revealed yesterday that 415 schools in England – many in the country’s most deprived towns – are ‘stuck’ in a cycle of underperformance. This means they have not been rated at least ‘good’ since September 2006. Headteachers have complained about low levels of literacy, aspiration and employment among parents. One staff member went so far as to compare their school to a ‘toilet’.

NHS

Telegraph
More than 1,000 sexual assaults have been reported on NHS mixed-sex mental health wards since 2017, an investigation has found.  It follows calls for tighter rules to protect patients’ dignity and safety.  The figures show there were at least 1,019 reports of sexual assaults on mixed wards from April 2017 to October 2019. Although trusts said they met official rules on single-sex accommodation, the wording allows them to have patients of different genders on the same ward, if the areas are divided up, as well as allowing shared lounges and bathrooms.  Just over a year ago, a Government-ordered review led by Sir Simon Wessely recommended that the Government “tighten” its definition of single-sex accommodation, to ensure wards were “genuinely” single sex.

Times
Women could be given a “much clearer picture” of their risk of developing breast cancer after scientists identified an “incredible haul” of genes linked to the disease. Researchers have found hundreds of variations in genes that could raise a woman’s risk, a five-fold increase on the number previously known to be associated with breast cancer. Small variations in DNA can increase the risk of developing certain diseases. These errors, known as genetic variants, can affect the functioning of genes and increase susceptibility to certain forms of cancer.

Iran

Mail
Iran fired ‘more than a dozen’ ballistic missiles last night against two airbases in Iraq where US and coalition forces, including British troops, are based. The series of revenge missile strike were launched on American positions in retaliation for the assassination of revered general, Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport on Friday. Targets in Erbil in northern Iraq and the Ain al-Asad airbase in the country’s west are thought to be in areas of Iraq where UK troops are also based. Security sources said nine rockets hit the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase, the largest of the Iraqi military compounds where foreign troops are housed. The Ministry of Defence has confirmed there were no British casualties in the attack.

Sun
WHEN the Iranian government chillingly vowed “severe revenge” for the American drone assassination of top general Qasem Soleimani last week, it wasn’t immediately clear what the vengeance would mean for Britain. But now a senior commander has threatened to kill UK troops in retaliation, it appears Brits won’t be able to escape the conflict — which could have serious consequences for everyday civilians too. Although the execution was ordered by Donald Trump, the former head of the British navy Lord West has warned the UK is a “softer target” for a retaliatory Iranian attack. The risk of an all-out attack on America and its staggering military firepower might be seen as a more dangerous move than hitting smaller British forces to exact revenge.

iNews
The Government has put helicopters and ships on standby in the Middle East to rescue British nationals if the crisis escalates in the Gulf, the Defence Secretary told MPs. Ben Wallace said “urgent measures” were being taken to protect UK interests in the region including transferring non-essential military staff in Iraq to a safer location. He also refused to “rule out anything” when asked about the possibility of Britain launching an airstrike on Iran. Mr Wallace set out the moves in an emergency statement about the soaring tensions in the region following the deadly American drone attack on Iran’s military chief Qassem Soleimani during a visit to neighbouring Iraq.

Times
The defence secretary refused yesterday to rule out a British military strike on Iran as he said that helicopters and warships had been placed on standby in the Middle East. Ben Wallace told the Commons that the UK had evacuated non-essential personnel from Baghdad amid growing tensions after a US drone strike killed the senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. He called for de-escalation but told MPs that he was “not going to rule out anything” when questioned on the prospect of offensive British military action.

Mail
Iran has threatened to bomb Israel and Dubai if the United States retaliates for its ballistic missile strike at two Iraqi bases housing US troops.  Tehran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing American troops in a revenge attack for the US drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on Friday.  The Ayn al Asad airbase in western Iraq that was visited by Donald Trump in December 2018 and the Erbil base in Iraqi Kurdistan were both struck by the missiles on Tuesday at about 5.30pm.

Telegraph
More than a dozen rockets have been launched against US  targets by Iran, hitting two Iraqi airbases where American and coalition forces are based, Washington has confirmed. Iran launched surface-to-surface missiles in attacks on the Ain al-Assad and Erbil bases as revenge for the killing of Gen Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad last week. There are so far no reports of casualties, but it was Iran’s most direct assault on America since the 1979 seizing of the US Embassy in Tehran. The operation was codenamed “Martyr Soleimani”.

Times
Iran launched its first retaliation for the assassination of Qasem Soleimani early this morning, hitting a giant US airbase in Iraq with a stream of missiles. The attack was confirmed by Iranian state television and American security sources. Iran’s Press TV said that “tens” of medium-range missiles had been fired at the Camp Asad base in western Iraq’s Anbar province, though reports from the ground said that it had been hit nine times. The Revolutionary Guard said it had carried out the operation, codenamed “Martyr Soleimani”, and issued what appeared to be a direct threat to the Iraqi army, which is formally host to American and British troops.

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