Brexit

The Independent is the only paper to have picked up on a story about government officials working on a customs union.

Whitehall officials have begun “serious work” on the UK staying in a permanent EU customs union as a route to rescuing the Brexit deal, despite Theresa May ruling out the move, The Independent can reveal.
Preparations are underway at a high level, amid a belief the beleaguered prime minister will be forced to offer the potentially crucial compromise to Labour.
Ms May has repeatedly rejected a customs union – fearing a further revolt by anti-EU Tories – but some cabinet ministers are pushing her to accept that the red line will have to be dropped if her deal is to be rescued.

And it seems that officials are also looking into what can be done about the Irish ‘backstop’ proposals, reports the Express.

WHITEHALL officials are looking into alternative backstop proposals outlined in the so-called “Malthouse Compromise” after a delegation of Tory MPs from both sides of the Brexit divide met Theresa May in Downing Street.
The Prime Minister welcomed MPs and ministers including former education secretary Nicky Morgan, solicitor-general Robert Buckland, and key figures from the European Research Group including Jacob Rees-Mogg, Steve Baker and Iain Duncan Smith.

An ex-Brexit secretary has criticised the official currently leading negotiations, says the Times.

Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, threatened a fragile Tory truce last night by casting doubt on the minister leading talks with Brussels.
Mr Raab questioned whether David Lidington, appointed by Theresa May to lead the team of ministers seeking amendments to the Irish backstop, had “the kind of Brexiteer credentials to get this deal delivered in a way that is palatable back home”.

The Sun claims there’ll be a lot of Opposition MPs backing the Prime Minister.

More than 40 Labour MPs are prepared to revolt and back Brexit – in a huge boost to Theresa May.
Sources told The Sun that the critical rebellion by 27 Labour MPs in the Commons on Tuesday – which helped the PM keep her Brexit plan on track -was “just the beginning”.
One senior insider said: “There are about 10 more of us. We’ve all kept pretty quiet until now but the feelings running pretty high”.

Art50 delay

Will we leave on March 29 or will there be a delay?  A top Tory writes for the Telegraph (by Jacob Reees-Mogg).

Attempts to postpone the date of departure from the European Union beyond March 29 are little more than ploys to keep the United Kingdom as a member state in spite of the referendum and subsequent Acts of Parliament.
The motion proposed earlier this week by Yvette Cooper, whose constituency voted 69.3 per cent to leave, was backed by those who campaigned to remain and always disliked the result.

The Mail has picked up his comments.

Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said he could accept a short delay to Britain’s planned departure from the European Union on March 29 on the condition Theresa May pursues his plan rather than hers for a Brexit deal.
Mr Rees-Mogg, who chairs the influential pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) within the Tory Party, said a short extension to the timetable could be accepted if the government struck a deal with Europe along the lines of the so-called Malthouse Compromise.

The Independent reports another Brexiteer’s words.

The most senior Conservative backbencher said he could accept a short delay to Britain’s departure from the EU to get key Brexit legislation through parliament.
Sir Graham Brady, who chairs the influential 1922 Committee, became latest top Tory to acknowledge Britain may not be ready to leave the bloc on March 29, after Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, admitted the government could need “extra time”.

And the Express claims the Foreign Secretary was told off for his remarks.

JEREMY Hunt was rebuked by Theresa May’s officials yesterday after suggesting Brexit could be delayed so a backlog of legislation awaiting Commons approval can be cleared.
In an interview the Foreign Secretary claimed “extra time” might be needed to ensure the laws designed to ensure a smooth departure from the EU reach the statute book before the exit date, currently set for March 29.

Project Fear

The latest incarnation of Project Fear concerns rubbish, says the Guardian.

Government officials are preparing to deal with “putrefying stockpiles” of rubbish in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to documents leaked to the Guardian.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March, export licences for millions of tonnes of waste will become invalid overnight. Environment Agency (EA) officials said leaking stockpiles could cause pollution.
The EA is also concerned that if farmers cannot export beef and lamb, a backlog of livestock on farms could cause liquid manure stores to overflow.

And Westmonster reports the claims that financial services will leave our capital are bogus.

The predicted exodus of banks and jobs in financial services from London simply hasn’t happened. When will those media outlets and politicians who tried to scare people witless in 2016 apologise?
new report by Reuters lays bare the reality: hardly any jobs have moved to Paris or Frankfurt, there is only a modest increase in recruitment abroad and the big boys, some of whom helped fund the Remain campaign, are staying in London.

EU

The Express has an interesting story about the ‘divorce bill’.

THE European Union would be legally powerless against the UK if the Government decides not to pay the entire £39billion divorce bill in case of a no-deal Brexit, lawyers revealed – but an angered Brussels could still find other means to extract the payment.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will not have any jurisdiction over Britain if the country leaves the bloc without a deal, meaning Brussels will have little luck suing Britain for not forking out the agreed payment, according to law experts.

The Guardian reports the fears of EU bosses that our PM is a coward.

EU officials fear Theresa May is setting the UK on course for a no-deal exit at the end of June because she will not have the political courage to ask for the longer Brexit delay they believe she needs.
Senior figures in Brussels have been war-gaming the likely next steps by the British government, and believe a delay to the UK’s exit date of 29 March is inevitable.
But they fear the prime minister’s strategy of seeking simply to survive from day to day will lead to her requesting an inadequate short three-month extension for fear of enraging Brexiters in the Conservative party.

The Irish PM is seeking support from across the pond, says the Sun.

LEO Varadkar is begging the US and Canada to publicly back Ireland over Britain in the bitter battle of the backstop.
He has launched a charm offensive to try and get senior American politicians and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau to intervene in the row on Dublin’s side.
The Irish leader is said to believe an endorsement by the US, which played a major role in the peace process, will heap pressure on MPs.

Breitbart reports the European Council’s decision to allow Brits to travel freely across the continent.

One of the most persistent Brexit scare stories was disarmed Friday after the European Council themselves announced Brits would enjoy visa-free travel across Europe after Brexit.
The announcement states that British citizens are free to travel in Europe for 90 days in any given 180 day period, noting that because the United Kingdom has stated it would not require EU citizens to have short-stay visas after Brexit, it would not require the same in return.

Gibraltar

There’s a huge row about the status of ‘the Rock’, reported in the Express.

A FURIOUS diplomatic row erupted last night after Brussels claimed Gibraltar was a British colony. Eurocrats were accused of “trying to irritate the hell” out of Britain by using the incendiary language in legal documents.
Gibraltar lashed out at “bullying” Spain for being behind the move and claimed its powerful neighbour takes every chance to “stick its finger in our eye”.
Theresa May’s officials issued an angry rebuke after the official documents were released yesterday.

The Independent claims it’s the PM’s fault.

The EU’s provocative description of Gibraltar as a “colony” is the result of Theresa May’s attempt to “appease” her own MPs over Brexit, it has been claimed.
A Labour MP said the row – after Brussels adopted Spain’s term in legislation to cope with a no-deal Brexit – was the “inevitable consequence” of the prime minister’s bid to reopen her divorce deal.

The Guardian links the visa-free travel with Gibraltar.

A straightforward change in EU law guaranteeing visa-free travel for Britons in Europe after Brexit has sparked a diplomatic row after Brussels described Gibraltar as “a colony of the British crown” in its no-deal legislation.
The footnote containing the contentious description of the Rock was attached to the EU’s regulation on the insistence of Spain, with whom the UK has been in dispute over Gibraltar for three centuries.

Bercow

Don’t laugh! Bercow insists he’s neutral, reports the Guardian.

John Bercow has insisted he aims to be neutral over Brexit, likening his role as Speaker to that of a football referee and saying his hope is to give the Commons “freedom to breathe” on the issue.
While Bercow is unpopular with many Conservative MPs, especially after his occasionally personal interpretation of Commons procedures on Brexit, his handling of recent noisy debates has won him fans overseas.

…although he admits he’s concerned, says the Express.

JOHN Bercow has maintained he is neutral when handling Brexit debates in Parliament but has admitted he is “concerned” at the current direction of Britain’s departure from the European Union.
The House of Commons Speaker, who voted to remain in the 2016 referendum, insists he conducts himself in an impartial manner and it was not up to him to “proscribe one route or another”. The 56-year-old has found himself submerged in controversy after he agreed to allow a vote on an amendment to a Government motion tabled by Brexit rebel Dominic Grieve.

Order-Order reports an interview in which he agrees he supports Remainers.

John Bercow has given a brazen interview to CNN unapologetically defending his support for “minority, dissident voices” fighting Brexit and his right to “help the House decide” which way the Brexit process goes, before declaring without a hint of irony that “sometimes the Speaker’s role is just to stand up for the institution of the House of Commons and the principle of Parliamentary democracy”. Overruling the clerks to force an amendment through for political reasons against the rules is a strange way of standing up for that institution…

Labour Party

Corbyn’s in trouble, says the Telegraph.

Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity is at an all-time low because voters believe he is “playing politics” with Brexit and can not be trusted.
The Labour leader’s approval rating, which reached its peak in mid-2017 after the general election, has been on the slide ever since, hit by his failure to set out a clear policy on Brexit, and by the anti-Semitism controversy which has dogged his party for years.

There’s a vendetta against Opposition MPs who have supported the Government says the Sun.

LABOUR rebels who sided with Theresa May on Brexit this week are on a new “hit list” drawn up by furious People’s Vote chiefs.
Sources told The Sun that furious second referendum supporters will this weekend launch a campaign to try and “shame” Labour MPs who backed the PM into changing their mind.
It comes as Eloise Todd, the head of separate campaign group Best for Britain, calls for Labour to “de-select” or boot out the MPs who opposed Yvette Cooper’s parliamentary plan to delay Brexit.

Antisemitism within the Labour Party hasn’t gone away, reports the Independent.

Labour MPs will give Jeremy Corbyn a week to prove the leadership has got to grips with the antisemitism row that has dogged the party.
MPs are braced for a fresh clash over handling of anti-Jewish sentiment in Labour’s ranks amid warnings the party risks appearing “institutionally antisemitic” if the issue is not addressed.
The Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) will debate a motion on Monday that would give the leadership seven days to set out how it is addressing the antisemitism allegations which engulfed the party last year.

And MPs have called for further action on antisemitism, says the Guardian.

Two Labour MPs have put down a motion at next week’s meeting of the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) calling on the leadership to “adequately tackle cases of antisemitism”, reigniting a long-running row within the party.
MPs supporting the motion accuse the party’s ruling NEC of leniency and call on the leadership to intervene, but the party hierarchy rejects this, saying its disciplinary process is effective and independent.

Freedom of speech

Universities may be forced to abandon ‘no-platforming’ reports the Mail.

Student unions which ban speakers simply because they might cause offence are breaking the law on free speech, official guidelines warn.
In the first intervention of its kind, ministers will today unveil a document outlining how universities must protect freedom of expression.
It says those who try to ban controversial figures, such as feminists critical of the transgender lobby, are in breach of legislation.

Education

Should pupils be allowed to use their mobiles in school?  The Times reports:

Mobile phones should be banned in schools to help pupils concentrate on learning, the schools minister has said.
Nick Gibb is concerned that too many children are using mobile phones at night and arriving at school the next day tired. He said that the government would introduce lessons for pupils on how to limit their screen time.
Evidence of the negative effect of phone use on children’s development and mental health is mounting.

BBC News has picked up the story.

Pupils should be banned from taking smartphones into school, the minister for school standards in England has told the BBC.
Nick Gibb spoke out ahead of the government publishing new guidance for schools, expected to address internet safety, social media and online gaming.
It is expected to say children should be taught to limit the amount of time they spend online.

The Mail says pupils should be lectured about phones.

Mobile phones should be banned from classrooms, with pupils to be lectured about the dangers of device dependency, the schools minister has said.
Nick Gibb said he had concerns about the impact that excessive phone use was having on children, and said the Government would introduce lessons for pupils on how to limit their screen time.

FGM

At last, someone has been found guilty of mutilating a child, reports the Telegraph.

The mother of a three-year-old girl has become the first to be convicted of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK, after a failed bid to “shut up” her accusers with witchcraft.
The Ugandan woman, 37, and her Ghanaian partner, 43, both from Walthamstow, east London, were accused of cutting their daughter over the 2017 summer bank holiday.
Police found bizarre spells inside 40 frozen limes and two ox tongues with screws embedded in them aimed at silencing police, social workers, officers and lawyers in the case.

The Times claims she was a witch.

The mother of a three-year-old girl has become the first person to be convicted of female genital mutilation in Britain after she failed to silence her accusers with witchcraft.
The Ugandan woman, in her thirties, and her Ghanaian partner, in his forties, were accused of cutting their daughter in 2017. Police found spells, written inside 40 frozen limes and two ox tongues with screws embedded in them, which were intended to silence the officers, social workers and lawyers in the case.

The girl was pinned down during the process, reports the Mail.

The mother of a three-year-old girl has become the first person to be found guilty of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK.
The girl’s Ugandan mother was prosecuted under FGM laws after using a ‘witch’ to help her carry out the surgery at her home in Walthamstow, east London.
The girl, now five, told police she was pinned down while a woman they called a witch mutilated her.

The Sun says she faces up to 14 years in jail.

A MUM has become the first person in the UK to be convicted of female genital mutilation after trying to “shut up” accusers with witchcraft.
The 37-year-old claimed she had never heard of FGM but she hired a “witch” to cut her three-year-old daughter at home in Walthamstow, East London.
When she spoke to cops, the girl – now aged five – said she was pinned down while a woman mutilated her during the 2017 summer bank holiday.

Organ donation

You’ll soon have to opt out if you don’t want your organs to be transplanted reports the Mail.

An opt-out system for organ donation will soon become law after it passed its last hurdle in Parliament.
Adults will be presumed to be organ donors unless they have explicitly objected. Experts say the move will save 700 lives a year.
The House of Lords yesterday gave its approval to the law, now in its final Parliamentary stages after it cleared the Commons last year.

It’s nearly the law, says the Sun.

A NEW opt-out system for organ donation moved a step closer to becoming law.
Proposed reforms cleared the latest parliamentary hurdle when peers made no changes to the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill during its committee stage in the Lords.
If it is eventually passed, adults in England will be presumed to be organ donors unless they specifically record their decision not to be.

Nuclear missiles

The US president is to quit a nuclear pact with Russia, reports the Telegraph.

The US will withdraw from a landmark nuclear missile pact with Russia, Donald Trump announced on Friday – ending an agreement that has been a cornerstone of superpower arms control since the Cold War.
The Trump administration’s move, which has been expected for months, follows years of unresolved dispute over Russian compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty.

The Sun says an arms race could ensue.

THE US is to pull out of a 32-year missile pact with Russia — sparking fears of an arms race.
It claims Moscow broke the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces agreement by developing certain ground-launched missiles.
Donald Trump said Russia’s deceit “poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad”.

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