Brexit

The Mail claims the Prime Minister is still facing a split within her cabinet.

Theresa May issued a plea for ministers to be ‘bold’ as her  Brexit  war Cabinet failed to hammer out a strategy for negotiations with the EU.
The Prime Minister urged her senior team to show ‘ambition’ during a two-hour meeting yesterday.
But the deadlock between Remain and Brexiteer factions has not been broken – with hopes now being placed in a Cabinet ‘away day’ at her Chequers country residence later this month.
The Cabinet subcommittee – made up of Mrs May and her top ministers including Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove – discussed the Ireland issue on Wednesday afternoon.

The Sun also reports on Mrs May’s problems at home.

A NEW compromise bid by Theresa May to keep Britain half in the EU’s single market has been rejected by Cabinet Leavers as “a plot to frustrate Brexit”.
The Sun can reveal that the PM’s top EU advisor Oli Robbins pitched the plan to a key meeting of the PM’s 11-strong Brexit Committee on Thursday.
Under it, Britain would maintain very close alignment to the EU’s rule book for hard goods, but diverge from Brussels edicts on the services sector.
That would keep trade and supply lines for products such as machinery, cars and planes flowing freely with Europe and protect jobs, Mr Robbins argued.
It was spun to the committee as a halfway house between the Cabinet’s Brexit campaigners and former Remainers lead by Chancellor Philip Hammond.
But it failed to unite them, and only deepened the committee’s deadlock.

Contrary to the ‘doom and gloom’ predictions by the Governor of the Bank of England, one of his senior officials has said we’ll be OK, even if we leave without a deal, says the Express.

A SENIOR Bank of England official yesterday said the “core” of Britain’s financial system would be “robust” if the country leaves the EU without a Brussels deal.
Ben Broadbent, deputy governor of the central bank, said the economy’s growth over the last year suggested it would remain strong whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.
His remarks follow a series of Daily Express telephone surveys recording overwhelming support for the Government walking away from the Brexit negotiations without a deal.
Mr Broadbent told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday: “We have forecast, as very long run outcomes, a range of possible deals and we have also said we assume in our forecasts that there will be a smooth transition to those, which essentially means we’re not assuming a no-deal outcome.”

EU

Several of the media report the EU’s negotiator playing hardball. Westmonster says:

The European Union’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier has once again listed demands that the UK must bow down to and insisted that a so-called ‘transition period’ of status quo policies applying until 2021 is no longer certain.
Barnier spoke of issues surrounding the Northern Ireland border and EU citizens rights in the UK and reiterated that “the UK has to therefore accept the rules and obligations until the end of transition”.
He went on to say: “It also has to accept the ineluctable consequences of its decision to leave the European Union, to leave its institutions and its policies.
“To be quite frank if these disagreements persist the transition is not a given.”
The British people did not vote for another list of demands from Brussels. The government should get a grip, get tough in these negotiations and now push for a full, clean Brexit in 2019.

The Express also reports Barnier’s words.

MICHEL Barnier has warned the proposed Brexit transition period “is not a given” if “substantial” differences between EU and UK negotiators continue to threaten the progress of talks.
He said three “substantial” disagreements remain with the UK over plans for a transition period after Brexit, adding: “If these disagreements persist the transition is not a given.

BBC News reports he said he doesn’t understand the UK.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that a transition period immediately after Brexit in 2019 is “not a given”.
He said “substantial” disagreements remained and he had “some problems understanding the UK’s position”.
And he said the UK decision to quit the customs union and single market meant Irish border checks were “unavoidable”.
David Davis said he was “surprised” to hear Mr Barnier was unclear on the UK’s stance on the transition period.

The Independent claims the transition period after March next year is in doubt.

The EU would deny Britain the Brexit transition period requested by Theresa May if ongoing disagreements in negotiations are not resolved, Michel Barnier has warned.
The European Commission’s chief negotiator told reporters in Brussels that a transition period was “not a given” and that “there will undoubtedly be a problem” if the UK sticks to its guns.
The UK is at odds with Brussels in a number of areas: it has demanded a power to object to new rules imposed on it during the transition period, restrictions on the rights of EU citizens who come to Britain during the transition, and the ability to opt in to certain European policies.

The war of words between the two negotiators is also in the Guardian.

The UK’s Brexit secretary, David Davis, has engaged in a war of words with the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, over the latter’s claims that unacceptable British demands had thrown into doubt an agreement on a transition period.
Speaking in Brussels after the latest round of talks, Barnier told reporters he had been left mystified by the positions taken by Downing Street in recent days. “To be quite frank, if these disagreements persist, the transition is not a given,” Barnier said.
The comments triggered an immediate plunge in the value of the pound, a reflection of the importance of a transition period in cushioning businesses in the UK from the effects of Brexit after 29 March 2019. During the envisioned 21-month transition, the UK would in effect stay in the EU, and under its laws, but lose its seat in its decision-making institutions.

The Times claims the talks are about to be derailed.

The EU’s chief negotiator told Theresa May yesterday that a Brexit transition deal was “not a given” as a row threatened to derail talks.
Michel Barnier escalated a war of words between London and Brussels, hitting back at accusations by David Davis that the European side was acting in bad faith in the negotiations.
Mr Barnier claimed that the Brexit secretary had introduced a series of “surprising” new demands into the transition talks, adding that given the number of substantial “disagreements”, the transition period was not a certainty. In a barbed attack on Mr Davis’s infrequent appearances at talks in Brussels, he denied British claims that the EU side was deliberately cancelling negotiating sessions.

The Sun claims Barnier is a bully.

EU bigwig Michel Barnier was accused last night of bullying Britain by insisting we give in to all his transition demands.
He warned there may be no two-year post-Brexit  preparation unless we agree to Brussels’ rules during it.
The EU’s Brexit chief voiced “surprise” at ­“substantial” UK-Brussels disagreements so far.
His demands include continuing to grant all EU citizens residency until 2021 — opposed by Britain.
He has also insisted the UK should not be able to veto new laws during the transition, even if they are not in our interests.

The Telegraph reports an accusation by the UK negotiator.

David Davis’s spat with his Brussels counterpart Michel Barnier has intensified as he accused the EU’s chief negotiator of wanting to “have it both ways” in Brexit talks.
The Brexit Secretary said there was a “fundamental contradiction” in the approach being taken by Mr Barnier in negotiations and expressed “surprise” that Mr Barnier claimed not to understand the UK’s position.
Meanwhile Mr Barnier said Mr Davis had been wrong to  accuse him of being “discourteous” by inserting a so-called punishment clause into the EU’s terms for the transition period that would allow Brussels to ground aircraft and block trade if the UK failed to obey EU rules.

Time is running out, reports Sky News.

Plans for a Brexit transition period have been thrown into doubt by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who says it is “not a given” if disagreements persist.
Mr Barnier said time was “very short” for both sides to strike a deal to stop a cliff-edge departure on Brexit day.
He claimed there were still “problems” in Brussels “understanding the position” of the British Government.
His comments sent the pound sliding by a cent against both the dollar and the euro.
Prime Minister Theresa May this week vowed to be “robust” in the face of EU demands, including the continuation of freedom of movement during the transition.

But the EU is still cancelling planned talks, says the Express.

BRUSSELS bureaucrats are playing hard ball with British Brexit negotiators after European Union officials “refused” to speed up negotiations, even “cancelling” the latest talks.
The first round of Brexit discussions over the UK’s transitional period concluded today, but it is understood the UK was keen to extend talks over next week.
However, this was refused by the European Commission, who has persistently insisted that Britain should “clarify” its Brexit position.
So much so, Brussels has even “cancelled” the latest round of talks, due to take place on February 19 and 20.
Senior UK officials told Politico.co.uk the EU is “refusing” to speed up Brexit talks despite the nation wanting to “move at pace”.
One said the UK was seeking “continuous” talks and are “ready to negotiate”.
They added: “It seems the Commission are refusing to do so.”

The Independent also reports the war of words.

David Davis has been dragged into renewed war of words with Brussels over the Brexit transition period, accusing the EU of having a “fundamental contradiction” in its approach and wanting to “have it both ways” after a week of fruitless talks.
Relations between Britain and the European Commission  sank to a new low on Friday after Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, casually claimed at a press conference the UK had cancelled an important meeting due to a “diary clash”. UK officials behind the scenes took offence to the claim and said the meeting had not been cancelled at all and instead took place in the afternoon.
Mr Barnier sealed the state of mutual incomprehension, telling reporters in Brussels that he had “problems understanding the UK’s position” on the transition period.
In a statement issued on Friday afternoon after Mr Barnier’s press conference – a solo affair in contrast to previous joint outings – Mr Davis said the EU could not “have it both ways” on the transition period.

In other Continental news, the Express reports the French president’s plans to make Paris the financial capital of the world, rather than London,

EMMANUEL Macron has unveiled plans to make Paris Europe’s biggest financial centre, snatching talent from London’s prosperous banking sector after Brexit.
London finances around 40 to 50 percent of the continent’s financial services and Mr Macron is hoping to take some of the spoils for France.
The French President plans to lure global banks from the City of London to Paris after Brexit, Mr Macron’s minister of finance and economy has revealed.
Bruno Le Maire said Mr Macron’s sights are on JP Morgan, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, which all have offices in London.

Customs union

More angry words have been exchanged over the customs union, says the Mail.

David Davis hit back at Michel Barnier’s latest Brexit ultimatum this afternoon, warning the EU chief he could not ‘have it both ways’.
The Brexit Secretary blasted the ‘fundamental contradiction’ in Mr Barnier’s claims to both want an amicable transition and strong powers for the EU to punish Britain.
Mr Barnier enraged the British negotiators earlier today by threatening to call off the planned Brexit transition period if the UK quits the EU customs union.
The two chief negotiators have spent all week in an escalating war of words and Mr Barnier gave a tetchy press conference in Brussels this morning, warning of a hard border in Northern Ireland and demanding continued free movement to Britain.

And the Mail claims the Labour leader plans to keep the UK in the customs union.

Jeremy Corbyn has told Michel Barnier he is ready to keep Britain in the customs union if he becomes Prime Minister, a leaked memo claims.
The Labour leader is said to have privately signalled his willingness to make a series of deep concessions if he takes charge of negotiations.
The commitments – which fly in the face of the party’s official policy – emerged in records of a meeting with EU chief negotiator Mr Barnier that took place earlier this week.
They would mean the UK being tied to EU law after Brexit  and unable to strike trade deals elsewhere in the world.

The Independent also reports the discussions between Corbyn and the EU.

The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator has denied holding parallel private negotiations with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn behind the back of the UK government.
Michel Barnier said he had only repeatedly met with Mr Corbyn as part of his “open door” policy with interested senior figures, pointing out that he had also met with Nigel Farage and other leading eurosceptics.
The  top Commission official said he that the “only person” he was negotiating with was Theresa May and that he had made this clear to the Labour leader “every time I’ve met him”.
“On Jeremy Corbyn, my door is open, it’s open to everybody,” he told reporters at a press conference in Brussels.

Northern Ireland

The political situation in the province could be on the verge of a solution, says BBC News.

There is growing speculation that a deal to end the year-long political deadlock at Stormont could be unveiled as early as next week.
Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive collapsed amid a bitter row between the DUP and Sinn Féin last January.
On Friday, both parties stayed away from scheduled round-table talks.
Instead, British and Irish ministers met the three smaller parties – Ulster Unionists, SDLP and Alliance.
The politicians were told by Northern Ireland Office officials that the discussions involving the DUP and Sinn Féin are at “a critical stage”.
It is understood that the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, has been meeting Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill and incoming party president Mary Lou McDonald elsewhere in Stormont’s Parliament Buildings.

But the EU negotiator is still claiming the province will have to stay in the customs union, says the Mirror.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said leaving the EU single market and customs union will mean border checks at the Irish border are “unavoidable”.
Mr Barnier announced today that the EU will prepare a draft of the UK withdrawal treaty that would see Northern Ireland remaining in the customs union.
Speaking at a press conference Barnier insisted that the EU had no choice but to begin drafting the deal because London had not offered a solution to the issue of the Irish border.
Mr Barnier said: “It is important to tell the truth. A UK decision to leave the single market and to leave the customs union would make border checks unavoidable.”

Breitbart also reports the EU’s demands.

Northern Ireland will remain locked in the European Union’s (EU) Single Market and Customs Union, a hardline draft withdrawal agreement seen by British negotiators has demanded.
The text, intended to be legally binding and expected to be published in two weeks, has been reported by anti-Brexit British newspaper the 
Guardian, which described the “uncompromising legal language of the draft agreement”.
According to the paper, the British government is expected to agree to the demands in the document, which will mean Northern Ireland is tied to EU laws and rules well after the so-called Brexit ‘transition period’.
Single Market membership includes open borders and free movement, and it is unclear how the rest of the UK would be protected from unlimited mass migration if Northern Ireland’s borders remain open.

And the Guardian reports both sides are considering the plan.

Officials from the UK and EU are drawing up a plan to in effect keep Northern Ireland in the customs union and the single market after Brexit in order to avoid a hard border.
The opening of technical talks followed a warning from Brussels that keeping the region under EU laws was currently the only viable option for inclusion in its draft withdrawal agreement.
The development, first reported by the Guardian on Friday and later confirmed by the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, triggered an immediate row.
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, tweeted: “If NI stays in single market, the case for Scotland also doing so is not just an academic ‘us too’ argument – it becomes a practical necessity. Otherwise we will be at a massive relative disadvantage when it comes to attracting jobs and investment.”

NHS

The Times reports a failure to recruit overseas doctors to the service.

A health service scheme to entice GPs from abroad to work in England has signed up only 100, well short of the 600 who were promised by April.
NHS England launched the initiative, at a cost of £100 million, in August, intending that 2,000 to 3,000 doctors should join the service from overseas by 2020. GPs said waiting times for appointments would increase if the target was missed.
Speaking to the GP magazine Pulse, Dr Arvind Madan, national director for primary care, said at the time: “By April 2018, we are aiming to have appointed 600 GPs who will be available to practices.”

The Sun claims the health secretary is about to launch an inquiry into the NHS’ funding.

HEALTH Secretary Jeremy Hunt is ready to trigger a landmark cross-party Royal Commission into the future of the NHS, senior Tories claim.
The Sun can reveal that dozens of Conservative MPs livid with the state of the party have held meetings with the Health Secretary lobbying him to trigger a ground-breaking study of the NHS’ funding needs.
They believe it will win back voters in May’s council elections and move the party on from bitter Brexit infighting.
Theresa May has repeatedly refused to be drawn on the idea of a Royal Commission despite growing pressure and forecasts the NHS needs billions more to cope with an ageing society.
But senior Tories told the Sun that Jeremy Hunt was “ready to act” after the disastrous winter for the health service.

The Telegraph has an interesting story about housing development.

The NHS is to design “healthy homes” that nag families into better habits and keep a check on the elderly, as part of a radical national programme.
Under the plans, residents will also be offered digital health trackers so they can undergo monitoring by GPs – without even leaving their home.
The health and fitness schemes are being incorporated into 10 new “healthy towns” under NHS plans.
And the project is now set to be rolled out across the country.
Housing developers will be asked to embed smart technology throughout new homes, to allow remote monitoring of those with health conditions, with results sent directly to GPs and hospitals. 

And the Mail has picked up the story.

A new wave of bungalows and ‘care villages’ must be built to house the growing elderly population, MPs said last night.
Handymen should also be provided by councils to carry out odd jobs such as changing lightbulbs and help pensioners stay safe in their homes.
And those needing to downsize should be able to call a national telephone line for advice on how to ‘declutter’.
The recommendations came in a report by the Commons communities select committee, which called for a national strategy for older people’s housing. It said new homes should be ‘age-proofed’ so they can meet the current and future needs of older people.
Planning laws should encourage the building of more housing for older people, the MPs said, and town halls made to identify a target proportion of new housing for the elderly and produce strategies on how to meet their needs.

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