Brexit

In a claimed exclusive, the Telegraph reports that Brexit’s financial supporters are being targeted by the taxman.

Donors who bankrolled the successful Brexit campaign have accused HM Revenue and Customs of a “political attack” after they were hit with six or seven-figure tax demands on their contributions, The Telegraph can disclose.
Among those targeted are Lord Edmiston, the Midlands entrepreneur, who donated £1million to Brexit campaigns; Peter Cruddas, the City mogul; and Arron Banks, who made millions from his insurance businesses. Letters which could lead to them paying out up to £2m have been issued to them by HMRC in the past fortnight.
In what has been dubbed the “revenge of the Establishment”, the tax authorities have seized upon a relatively obscure area of inheritance tax laws which forces people to pay the tax upfront on large “gifts”.

The Times has picked up the story.

Entrepreneurs who supported Brexit have complained of “outrageous” tax bills for their contributions to the Leave campaign.
Donations to political parties, charities and other bodies are usually deemed exempt from tax but HM Revenue and Customs has ruled that payments from individuals to referendum campaigns are liable.
Among those who have been asked to pay six or seven-figure sums are Lord Edmiston, who donated £1 million, the banker Peter Cruddas and the former Ukip donor Arron Banks who gave £8.1 million to the unofficial Leave.EU campaign and faces a £2 million bill. Demands were sent in the past fortnight, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Lord Edmiston, 71, gave £850,000 to the Vote Leave campaign and £150,000 to the unofficial Grassroots Out campaign.

The Sun reports that the foreign secretary is winning over the Cabinet to his way of thinking.

BORIS Johnson has declared he is winning the Cabinet battle for a clean break from EU rules after Brexit.
Theresa May’s top table are trying to thrash out a joint position on what to ask Brussels for in trade deal talks that begin in March.
But there are deep divisions over how close to stick to EU red tape in exchange for more access.
Quizzed on how the deliberations are going, the Brexiteer Foreign Secretary said his push for regulatory divergence is “gaining ground”.
In an intervention likely to stir up Cabinet tensions further, Boris insisted it would be “madness to leave the EU without taking back control of your regulatory freedoms”.
While on a visit to Moscow, he added: “We just may want to do things differently. The world needs to move to global standards.

And the Express expects the Prime Minister to purge her Cabinet of Remainers in a few weeks’ time.

THERESA May is expected to reshuffle her Cabinet in the new year after forcing her deputy Damian Green to resign.
The Prime Minister is believed to have no option but to shake-up of her top team after Mr Green’s dramatic departure on Wednesday.
Sources claim Mrs May will use his resignation to reassert her authority as Brexit negotations hot up.
Brexit activists have urged her to sack pro-EU Cabinet members such as Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
But Mrs May will likely be wary of upsetting the delicate balance between Brexiteers and Remainers in top Government roles.

Meanwhile, north of the border, the Scots are still revolting, says the Telegraph.

Scotland’s highest civil courts is to hear a legal action to establish whether the UK could reverse Brexit without needing agreement from Brussels.
The case has been raised by seven pro-Europe MPs, MEPs and MSPs from four parties in Scotland.
They want to ask the Court of Session in Edinburgh to refer the issue to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg for a ruling on whether the UK can change its mind and halt the Article 50 process  without the approval of the other 27 member states if voters decide the final deal is unacceptable.
The Scottish court could choose to throw out the argument, or agree to pass it on to the ECJ. A crowdfunding campaign to pay for the cross-party group’s legal costs has already passed its £50,000 target.  

The Independent claims the case will now go to the European Court of Justice.

A legal action to decide if Britain can unilaterally halt Brexit if MPs vote down Theresa May’s withdrawal deal should go ahead, a court has ruled.
The Government will now be required to respond to a petition, brought by a cross-party group of Scottish politicians, after the decision in Edinburgh.
The politicians want the European Court of Justice  (ECJ) to rule on whether the UK can halt the Article 50 process without needing the approval of all other 27 EU member states.
The move comes as one of the EU’s most senior legal experts boosted the case by arguing the UK could withdraw the exit notification without that consent.

The Express also reports on the legal action.

BREXIT could be threatened after several Scottish Remainers launch legal action to see whether Article 50 can be reversed.
Seven pro-EU MPs, MEPs and MSPs from four parties in Scotland are appealing to the European Court of Justice to rule whether Article 50 could be triggered without an agreement for Brussels.
It comes after the European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said earlier this week that any decision to reverse Brexit must be approved by the other 27 member states.
However, some experts believe the UK could choose to stay in the European Union without permission from Brussels.

The Express reports that the official Parliamentary Opposition is also trying to have the referendum result overturned.

LEADERS in the Labour Party are planning to secretly “block Brexit” despite showing their public support for the European Union divorce, according to a Conservative MP.
“They haven’t listened to the people, are out of touch with their electorates and are a danger [to Brexit].”
64-year-old
Peter Bone also claimed Nicola Sturgeon’s ongoing independence demands for Scotland are simply designed to “annoy the English” and have nothing to do with Brexit.
Mr Bone said the Scottish Nation Party’s sole aim is to anger those outside of Scotland and force Theresa May into permitting a second independence vote.
Ms Sturgeon has continuously threatened to launch an independence campaign if her demands for a ‘soft’ Brexit keeping Scotland inside the European single market are met.

Parliament

Politics Home reports plans to relocate the Houses of Parliament in the event of the Palace of Westminster becoming unusable.

Parliament officials have undertaken a top secret exercise to build a £600,000 ‘pop up’ chamber, amid fears over the safety of the Palace of Westminster.
A top secret week-long exercise to construct a full-size alternative House of Commons or Lords chamber in a building near Parliament has just been completed this afternoon, to simulate what might happen if one or both chambers at Westminster suddenly became unusable due to a fire, a flood or some other emergency.
The exercise – which is expected to cost around £600,000 – has simulated the entire relocation of one of the Houses of Parliament after what was imagined to be a “catastrophic failure” that would have put one or other of the existing chambers out of action for several weeks – possibly months.
The alternative, ‘pop-up’ chamber, designed to seat some 300 MPs or peers, has been constructed in just four days and comes complete with voting lobbies, sound system, IT services, press and broadcasting facilities, security measures, even catering. The ambitious contingency planning exercise – the first of its kind on this scale – ended this afternoon with 200 volunteers drawn from parliamentary staff holding a mock sitting of the Commons or Lords in the new temporary chamber to test its full capability, including sound, recording, broadcast and votes. For security reasons, the venue has not been identified.

Passport

The proposed new blue passport is causing controversy, says the Guardian.

European officials have warned that Britain’s new blue passports could spell travel delays and extra paperwork rather than the enhanced freedom promised by the government.
Theresa May sought to end a difficult political year on a high note on Friday by confirming the return of navy travel documents after Brexit. She said that abandoning the EU-style burgundy design introduced in 1988 was an expression of “independence and sovereignty” that reflected “citizenship of a proud, great nation”.
But as the announcement divided domestic opinion along increasingly entrenched cultural battle lines, sources in Brussels pointed out that holders of any colour of British passport could see diminished travel rights after Brexit unless there were further negotiating concessions.
One senior official said that “depending on how negotiations go on all free movement issues after Brexit” there was a significant risk that British passport holders would lose the right to use a fast-track citizens lane when travelling on the continent and may also be obliged to use a new visa waiver scheme.

But the story has been tainted by rumours and ‘fake news’, says the Times.

The government’s plan to make British passports blue again after Brexit is at the centre of a fake news row after claims that the redesign would cost £500 million went viral.
The government announced yesterday that from 2019 the burgundy colour would be discarded in favour of the blue that had been used for British passports until 1988.
The change of colour had been seen by some Brexiteers as a symbol of the UK ceding sovereignty to the bloc, and demands for a return to the original navy blue featured heavily in the Leave campaign before the European Union referendum.

Trade

The PM’s visit to Poland has been a success, says the Sun.

POLAND’S premier offered Theresa May her dream EU trade deal last night in a big boost to her Brexit hopes.
The PM took her five top Cabinet ministers to Warsaw yesterday for a major charm offensive on the east European state.
As well as defence and security talks with its new leaders, she also mounted a bid to prise Poland away from the tough stand on trade taken by France and Germany.
In a clear sign the love bombing was working, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki delighted No10 by supporting Mrs May’s two key trade deal demands when talks begin in March.
He suggested the UK should be given continued barrier-free access for its key services sector, as well as also accepting London would follow “different rules and regulations”.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – who was also on the trip – dubbed the offer “tremendous”.

Police

Information leaked by the police about what was found in Damian Green’s office is likely to be the subject of an investigation, says the Star.

THERESA May sparked a war with police last night after being forced to axe Damian Green.
Two former officers had revealed pornography was found on the First Secretary of State’s computer.
The Prime Minister has insisted that leaks about this must be “properly investigated”.
Retired Metropolitan Police detectives Bob Quick and Neil Lewis revealed details of a 2008 raid on Mr Green’s Westminster office.
Mr Green, an old friend and close ally of Mrs May, was sacked earlier this week after a sleaze inquiry found he lied over whether he knew that the porn had been found on his computer.
He has denied “hurtful” claims that he downloaded and viewed the X-rated material.
Mrs May said she expected the leaks “to be properly investigated, to be taken seriously and to be properly looked at”.

And Huffington Post claims the leaks will be ‘properly investigated’.

Theresa May has demanded that former police officers who leaked the Damian Green pornography accusations be “properly investigated”.
The prime minister fired her close ally and first secretary of state on Wednesday evening after he was found to have lied when he said he did not know police had found porn on his office computer during a raid in 2008.
Two former police officers, ex-Met assistant commissioner Bob Quick and former detective constable Neil Lewis, who leaked details of the discovery, have been referred to the data protection watchdog.
Speaking in Poland this afternoon, May repeated calls for there to be an investigation.
“As I said in my letter, I share the concerns that have been raised about across the political spectrum about comments that were made by a former police officer,” she said.

Immigration

Sky News has found a story suggesting student numbers might not be included in immigration figures.

Scottish Conservative MPs are lobbying Theresa May to drop students from immigration figures and develop a generous post-Brexit visa scheme for universities as they begin to wield their power in Westminster.
Sky News has learnt that the recently-elected group of Scottish MPs has held a private meeting with Amber Rudd, the home secretary, to impress on her the importance of dropping students from the immigration target.
They have also been meeting immigration minister Brandon Lewis – most recently on Wednesday – to discuss what they want from a post-Brexit immigration system to accommodate the needs of universities and research facilities in Scotland.
Universities are worried that Brexit will deter EU students from coming to study in the UK and have argued that removing students from immigration numbers will send a powerful signal that talent is welcome in the UK.

Momentum

The Labour Party’s far left wing is about to become even more powerful, says the Times.

Momentum is set to grab three new positions on Labour’s governing body next month, increasing the organisation’s influence over the party.
A slate that includes Jon Lansman, founder of the network of Jeremy Corbyn supporters, is expected to triumph in a ballot for local party representatives on Labour’s national executive committee.
Mr Lansman, 60, was instrumental in pushing for the creation of the three seats to add to the 40- member committee, reflecting how much leverage its leading figures have amassed.
The results of the ballot, which closes on January 12, will come after a transformative year for Momentum, which began life as Mr Corbyn’s leadership campaign in 2015. Its membership has grown to 31,000 and its supporter base has risen to 200,000.

Roads

But good news for road repairs is reported by BBC News.

Councils will be able to bid for up to £100 million of funding for each A-road they want to enhance under Department for Transport (DfT) proposals.
The creation of a major road network (MRN) will see bypasses, road widening and junction improvements on carriageways maintained by local authorities.
Some 5,000 miles of key A-roads will be included in the scheme which was put to public consultation on Saturday.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “For decades, these major local roads have been underfunded and not properly maintained.
“We are spending record amounts on improving our roads and we want more of our busiest roads to benefit from guaranteed investment.
“This will unlock no end of benefits for communities by improving motorists’ journeys, taking traffic away from built up areas, as well as enabling new housing to be built and creating jobs.”

Spring

And just in case you’re fed up with winter already, the Times has a story that spring could spring early next year.

Despite snow having fallen across much of the UK this month, nature is already showing signs of spring, according to the Woodland Trust.
Five hazel catkin sightings have been submitted to the trust as part of its Nature’s Calender, a scheme that asks the public to track the signs of the changing seasons. The first report of a hazel catkin was made on October 27 in Southampton, the earliest recording since 2000, and four months before the average date for hazel flowering, on March 2.
There has also been a recording of elder budburst — when new leaves begin to reappear on trees after they shed them in autumn — on December 16 in Cardiff, again four months before its average date of March 19.

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