Brexit

In an exclusive report, the Telegraph claims the transition period is about to be extended.

British officials are in discussions with Brussels about extending the Brexit transition period to almost three years, The Telegraph has learnt.
The official Government target for transition is “around two years” but many senior Whitehall officials remain privately concerned about the practicality of such a short transition, given potentially massive changes that would be required by a “hard” Brexit.
The Telegraph understands that although it is not formally Government policy, Britain has discreetly begun sounding out senior EU figures over whether transition could be extended amid growing disarray within the Cabinet over the ultimate terms of a long-term deal with the EU.

And the Independent also claims its report is exclusive.

The UK’s Brexit negotiators are considering asking the EU for a longer transition period than the one they have been offered, amid concerns it will not be long enough to prepare the country for exit.
The possibility of a longer transition comes amid increasing discontent from the Tory right about the period as an EU “vassal state”, and with negotiations on the issue set to start in earnest in the coming weeks.
A Brussels source told 
The Independent that British officials had asked about the feasibility of extending the period in a recent meeting, while UK diplomats admitted that it might need to stretch beyond the start of 2021 and would not rule out pushing for a later date in upcoming talks.
Some experts and EU countries have called for the transition to be as long as five years. Ireland’s then foreign minister Simon Coveney said in November that a two-year transition period was “unrealistic” and that the duration should not be set “to meet some kind of political electoral cycle”. Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has also suggested “three or four years”.

Sky News reports the Brexit secretary’s admission that the Cabinet is divided.

David Davis has conceded there are “arguments” between Cabinet ministers about Brexit in a speech meant to downplay divisions.
The Brexit Secretary denied there was a split between the most senior ministers, but conceded there were different views on the “tactics” of quitting the EU.
He said they were all united by the determination to see through a Brexit “that serves the British economy and the British people”.
Speaking after Chancellor Philip Hammond sparked fury from some Eurosceptics for saying the UK and EU economies 
would diverge “very modestly”, Mr Davis said that would only apply during the transition period.

But BBC News says Mr Davis played down the split.

David Davis has said there is “no difference” between him, the chancellor and prime minister following a Tory row over the terms of a Brexit transition.
The Brexit Secretary said all three wanted the UK’s exit from the EU in March 2019 to “serve the British economy… and the British people”.
There was a “diversity of views” in all parties and EU member states, he said.
Backbench Tories had criticised Philip Hammond for saying that changes to UK-EU relations could be “very modest”.
No 10 distanced itself from Mr Hammond’s remarks and one Tory MP said he should “stick to the script” the PM had laid out.

The Times claims the Prime Minister has scrapped plans for a major speech.

Theresa May has abandoned preparations for a third high-profile speech on Brexit for fear of widening cabinet splits over Britain’s future relationship with the EU.
The prime minister had planned to provide more detail of the so-called “end state” in an address next month on the same scale as those given at Lancaster House and in Florence.
Downing Street has called a halt to the preparations, however, fuelling fears that differences in her cabinet are irreconcilable. One senior figure warned that “the concrete is setting”.
Philip Hammond risked further fracturing the fragile Tory truce on Europe when he called for the UK to seek a “middle way” in Brexit talks, adding that there were camps on both sides of the debate opposing a pragmatic approach.

News agency Reuters claims the UK needs to have a say over laws passed by the EU during the transition period.

Britain wants to benefit from European Union trade deals and have a say over EU laws passed during its transition out of the bloc, Brexit minister David Davis said on Friday, seeking to defuse tension between senior ministers over the interim deal.
Davis set out the government’s position on a transition period, looking to offer something for both those who want to keep close ties with the European Union after leaving and those who want a more radical break.
The balancing act, designed to appease both business and Brexiteers, is a taste of things to come for Prime Minister Theresa May, who has been unable to prevent divisions in her party repeatedly spilling out into the open.
On Thursday, finance minister Philip Hammond was rebuked by May’s office after saying he hoped Britain would diverge from the EU only “very modestly” after Brexit. He spoke hours before the head of a hardline group of Brexiteer lawmakers urged May to stop accepting negotiating terms set by the EU.

And the Sun claims Davis has issued a warning to the EU.

DAVID Davis has warned the EU that they must NOT force new laws on us after Brexit.
The Brexit Secretary said today that Britain “will still make our voice heard” in Europe in any transition period, and “respect must flow both ways”.
In a major speech this afternoon, he gave Brussels a stark warning – demanding they ensure we can still have our say.
Once Britain is out of the EU we will no longer be involved in the creation of new laws, but the bloc could make us accept new ones anyway during a transition period.
But Mr Davis fired a warning shot, telling Brussels bosses today: “The EU will need to respect our rights and our interests too.

Conservative leadership

The Express claims Boris, who has always wanted to be Prime Minister, is about to try again.

BORIS Johnson is preparing to launch a bid to replace Theresa May as Tory leader and Prime Minister, a cabinet minister has told the Express.
The Foreign Secretary is said to be concerned over the “direction of travel” with Brexit amid fears that the UK could be shackled to Brussels for much longer in a transition deal.
A Brexit supporter said that a challenge to Mrs May “could come in weeks” before the local elections which many in the party expect to be a disaster for the Conservatives.
Previously, it was thought that nobody would dare challenge Mrs May ahead of an election but the MP suggested that the party had “already written off” the council elections.

EU

Meanwhile, the Express reports on pulse fishing.

FISHING campaigners have been left furious after MEPs voted on a series of measures which could deplete European waters and leave them in a worse state, by allowing younger fish to be caught.
MEPs voted to outlaw pulse fishing, which involves using electrodes attached to nets to send electrical signal close to the surface of the seabed to drive some fish to move into the nets, in what has been seen as a major victory for the fishing industry.
However, the European Parliament also voted against quantitive binding targets aimed at reducing the number of small fish caught in European waters.
These measures are key to ensuring fish can reproduce and could leave Europe’s waters understocked.

And it seems residents in Frankfurt are concerned about bankers moving into the town, says the Express.

FRANKFURT residents are keeping a cautious eye on Brexit proceedings amid growing fears house prices could soar as bankers move from London to the German city.
As major European cities continue to use  Brexit  uncertainty to try to lure business from the City of London, the people of Frankfurt are bracing for major changes and some fear Brexit could “wash away the city’s fascination”.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, 72, has known the city for 50 years and is nervous about what the future holds.
He said: “That there are 30 per cent migrants here and 80 per cent of all citizens feel comfortable is a fascination and makes Frankfurt attractive to me. 

But a report by Reuters claims the City of London could remain an important trading centre after Brexit.

Britain could make it a requirement for regulators to help London remain a top global financial center after Brexit, lawmakers said on Saturday in a report pitting parliament against the Bank of England.
The United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union in March next year has raised concerns among policymakers about the country’s ability to remain a leading world center for trading currencies and managing trillions of pounds in people’s savings.
Banks, insurers and asset managers in Britain are already taking steps to move staff from London to new hubs in Paris, Frankfurt and Dublin to ensure continuity of service to EU customers after Brexit.
The United States is also making itself more attractive to finance by cutting corporate tax and easing banking rules introduced after the financial crisis.

Second referendum

Several of the media report growing support for a second referendum on Brexit. The Mail says:

More Britons favour a second referendum on European Union membership than oppose another vote, a poll suggests.
A total of 47% of respondents favour having a final say on Brexit once the terms of withdrawal are known, while 34% are against reopening the question, according to the ICM poll for the Guardian.
Excluding the 19% who do not have a view, it gives a 16-point lead in favour of a second referendum.
The increase of support comes from both sides of the Brexit debate, with a quarter of leave voters in favour of another poll.
The poll makes clear that Brexit remains a hot potato in Britain, with the country still divided and opinions becoming increasingly bitter and more polarised. 

The Guardian, which organised the poll, also covers the result.

Voters support the idea of holding a second EU referendum by a 16-point margin, according to one of the largest nationwide opinion polls since the Brexit  vote.
The ICM survey, conducted as part of a Guardian reporting project, found 47% of people would favour having a final say on Brexit once the terms of the UK’s departure are known, while 34% oppose reopening the question.
Excluding the roughly one-fifth who do not have a view gives a lead of 58% to 42% for a second referendum, showing rising interest in the idea as concern grows over the direction of recent negotiations.
The increased backing has come from both sides of the debate, with one-quarter of leave voters in favour of having another referendum on the final deal.

As does the Independent.

More Britons favour a second referendum on European Union membership than oppose another vote, a survey suggests.
A poll of more than 5,000 people conducted by ICM for 
The Guardian found 47 per cent of people favoured a vote on the final Brexit deal, once the terms of departure were known, with 34 per cent opposed.
Without including people who were undecided, 58 per cent supported a new vote, giving it a 16-point lead over the 42 per cent who were against it.
Overall, the poll, carried out in mid-January, suggests a small shift in recent months towards Remain, with 51 per cent of those expressing a view saying they were now in favour of staying in the EU.

Rees-Mogg

Jacob Rees-Mogg, newly-elected to the chair of the backbench European Research Group, is quoted by the Telegraph.

For Jacob Rees-Mogg, the gloves are finally off. The newly-appointed leader of a group of a 60-strong group of eurosceptic Tory MPs is intent on ensuring that Theresa May delivers the Brexit that the public voted for.
In an interview with The Telegraph he said that both Brexit and the Conservative Party are more important than the Prime Minister’s leadership and  warns that Britain risks heading for “Brino” – Brexit  In Name Only.
“The less of Brexit you get, the more likely you are to get Jeremy Corbyn,” Mr Rees-Mogg said. “If you get a good, clean Brexit and get the advantages from it then the chances of getting Jeremy Corbyn are much diminished.
“If everything is delayed for two years and then there’s high alignment you will find that by 2022 no-one will have noticed any difference from having left. Then what will be the point of voting for the party that’s implemented it.

The Express reports a warning he has given the Prime Minister.

JACOB REES-MOGG has warned Theresa May that if she delivers “Brexit in name only” with a status quo transition period the Conservatives will let Corybn into Downing Street, it has been revealed.
The MP for North East Somerset and Chairman of the influential European Research Group of backbench Tory Eurosceptics, also told the Prime Minister “the leader is important, the party is more important”.
He issued a stark warning to the Prime Minister: “The less of Brexit you get, the more likely you are to get Jeremy Corbyn.
“If you get a good, clean Brexit and get the advantages from it then the chances of getting Jeremy Corbyn are much diminished.

And Breitbart reports his call for ‘fundamental change’.

Leading pro-Brexit member of parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg has demanded the government “fundamentally change” its tone on Brexit, as the remain-supporting Chancellor called for a clean Brexit to be abandoned with only “very modest” changes to the UK’s links with the bloc.
Mr. Rees-Mogg leads parliament’s powerful European Research Group (EGR), which is backed by around 60 Brexiteer MPs who could threaten to vote against the government.
According to the 
Telegraph’s Christopher Hope, in a speech at Churcher’s College in Petersfield, in Hampshire, he will say: “The government’s tone on Brexit needs to fundamentally change. If [Brexit’s opportunities are] taken off the table then Brexit becomes only a damage limitation exercise. The British people did not vote for that. They didn’t vote for management of decline.
“If we are timid and cowering and terrified of the future, then our children will judge us in the balance and find us wanting,” he will blas
t.

Immigration

There’s more trouble in Calais, reports the Times.

Theresa May’s promise to fast-track the asylum claims of migrants in Calais has led to an increase in the number of people trying to reach Britain.
Charities say they have registered about 200 new arrivals since the prime minister announced the accelerated procedure after talks with President Macron of France at Sandhurst, Berkshire, on January 18.
There are now said to be between 800 and 900 migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and elsewhere in Calais. The French interior ministry says that about 100 migrants, mainly children, have arrived since the pledge.
When the Sandhurst Treaty was signed, Downing Street denied that it would encourage more people to try to reach the UK.

And the Sun reports the Brexit secretary’s claim that immigration will soar.

DAVID DAVIS sparked open Tory revolt last night by saying unlimited EU immigration will remain until 2021 – and new arrivals could get full UK residency rights.
Setting out Britain’s wishes for a post-Brexit “implementation phase” the Brexit Secretary admitted EU citizens would be free to “live and work” for two years after Brexit in 2019.
Sources added that allowing those who come after Brexit full residency rights – in line with Brussels wishes – was “open to negotiation”.
Furious Tory MPs threatened to oppose Government Brexit legislation in protest in the latest threat to Theresa May’s dwindling authority.
Migration Watch warned that more than a 
MILLION  EU migrants may take advantage of the Government’s latest concession and come to the UK during the two years – swelling the UK’s spiralling population.
Mr Davis also confirmed Britain would abide by new EU laws introduced during between 2019-2021 – and accept the judgement of the European Court of Justice during this time.

NHS

In other news, it seems that pressures on the NHS have eased, says the Times.

Routine operations can resume next week, NHS bosses have said, as they declared winter crisis measures over.
NHS England said that hospitals could return to business as usual as beds become free and a flu outbreak eases. However, doctors said any respite may be temporary and should be used to deal with a severe bed shortage.
At the beginning of the month, a national crisis team advised hospitals to cancel all non-urgent operations until the end of January to ease pressure on dangerously overcrowded wards. Hospitals pleaded with patients to stay away during the first weeks of the year. It is thought that about 55,000 procedures such as cataract removals and hip replacements were delayed.

But the Independent reports problems in mental health services.

The crisis in mental health services is likely to be made worse because of a collapse in trainee nurses following the Government’s decision to scrap bursaries for nursing students last year, MPs have warned.
In a report on the nursing workforce the Commons Health Select Committee said ministers must be prepared to “respond swiftly” if the policy, intended to allow more nurses to be trained, keeps driving down numbers.
The committee said it was particularly concerned that specialist courses in mental health, learning disabilities and community nursing have been rendered financially unviable because of a lack of applicants.
​Ucas data shows that applicants aged 21 to 25 dropped 13 per cent while those aged over 26 fell 6 per cent last year.

UKIP

Westmonster reports the mass defection of councillors in Thurrock.

UKIP’s troubles continue, with news today that 17 Councillors in Thurrock have left the party to set up a new group; the Thurrock Independents. The new party will now sit as the opposition party on Thurrock Council.
This is particularly devastating as the Thurrock branch has long been considered the jewel in the crown of UKIP. The constituency is the closest UKIP has ever come to winning a Parliamentary seat outside of defections.
MEP Tim Aker, who is one of the Councillors resigning the UKIP whip on the Council, came within 1,000 votes of taking the seat at the 2015 General Election.
Even in 2017 when UKIP performed poorly across the country, UKIP still received more than 20% of the vote, the best result in the country by far.

Sky News also has the story.

All 17 UKIP councillors in Thurrock – including an MEP – have resigned from the party and formed a new group.
Thurrock Independents has been created by the councillors who said they “have had enough of the aggressive and bitter reality of party politics”.
The group, which includes MEP Tim Aker, is now the official opposition to the Conservative majority at Thurrock.
A UKIP spokesman said he hoped the group would “continue to serve their constituents as well as they have”.

And Westmonster also carries a comment from the party’s leading donor Arron Banks.

Arron Banks has given his vision for the Brexit fight moving forward, insisting that UKIP is no longer the vehicle as it is “melting away before our eyes” but that Brexiteers could force through change by joining the Conservative Party to push through the will of the people.
Banks said: “It is said that the Tory Party, once millions strong, now couldn’t fill Old Trafford – and I mean the cricket ground!
“In that case why don’t the Brexit forces, the insurgents, do a Momentum and all join the Tory party? With just 30,000 members the Corbynite Momentum now dominates popular discourse on the left of British politics.
“A rag-bag of Toytown-Trotskists – all 57 Varieties – as Denis Healy might put it “out of their tiny Chinese minds” have taken complete control of Labour’s National Executive Committee ensuring not only a long-term future for Corbyn who will at this rate be as old as Chairman Mao when he finally takes office. If the Trots can do it in Labour why can’t the right with its commitment to proper British and Conservative values do it on the right?

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