Gibraltar

One of the biggest stories in today’s media is the claim by Spain to bring ownership of ‘the rock’ into the Brexit negotiations.  The Times says:

Spain was accused of a “predatory” attempt to isolate Gibraltar in the Brexit talks after it was handed an effective veto over any final deal applying to the British territory.
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, surprised officials by giving Spain the new power in draft EU negotiating guidelines released yesterday. The move is a boost to the Spanish, who have historically tried to regain control over the territory. It also threatens the viability of Gibraltar’s low-tax regime and its airport.
Gibraltar is home to important British military bases and the development prompted alarm among its 30,000 inhabitants, who overwhelmingly endorsed the bloc in the referendum last June.

The Telegraph also has the story.

Spain has been accused of using Brexit to make a “land grab” for Gibraltar under official guidelines for negotiations drawn up by the EU.
The European Council document on Friday suggested that Spain will be given an effective veto on whether the Brexit deal applies to Gibraltar.
The draft guidelines drawn up by EU leaders state that the Brexit deal will not apply to Gibraltar without an “agreement between the kingdom of Spain and the UK”.

The Independent claims Spain has a veto over the Brexit negotiations.

A Brexit deal will not automatically apply to the overseas British territory of Gibraltar and could be vetoed by Spain, according to the EU’s draft guidelines for the UK’s exit negotiations.
It came as Donald Tusk, the European Council President, set out the EU’s nine-page draft negotiating position, making clear Britain must make significant progress with its divorce from Europe before any talks on future trade terms begin.
But in what will be viewed as a significant diplomatic victory for Madrid, however, the guidelines add: “After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the UK may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the kingdom of Spain and the UK.”

The Sun also covers the draft EU terms.

THERESA May yesterday got a Brexit boost as Brussels’ top bureaucrat said trade talks could start this autumn — but it was overshadowed by a row over Gibraltar.
EU Council chief Donald Tusk shocked Westminster by saying he was keen to begin talks on an ambitious free trade agreement before finalising the terms of Britain’s withdrawal.
Unveiling the EU’s draft guidelines for two years of Brexit negotiations, he said discussions about the terms of the divorce would come first but talks on trade could begin when “sufficient progress” is made.
But the guidelines also revealed Spain would get a veto over the EU’s future relationship with Gibraltar — potentially pushing the Rock outside any EU/UK trade deal.
An EU official said Gibraltar was “disputed territory”, despite being in British hands for 300 years.

The Express describes it as a ‘bombshell’.

BRUSSELS dropped a Brexit bombshell on Theresa May this morning as it emerged Spain has secured an all-powerful veto over Gib In a huge diplomatic victory for Madrid the other 27 states have agreed that it will be able to block any trade agreement secured with Britain from applying to the Rock, potentially starving it of access to the single market.
The dynamite clause, buried deep in the EU’s negotiating guidelines issued today, will provoke outrage in Whitehall and worry amongst the tiny enclave’s population which is hugely reliant on trade with Europe.
In a twin blow guarantees over the Rock’s future were also snubbed by MEPs in the European Parliament, who omitted all mention of the overseas territory when they set out their own Brexit red lines in relation to EU citizens’ rights this week.

But Sky News reports the rock’s boss as saying ‘no way’.

Gibraltar’s chief minister has told Sky News the territory “is not going to be a political pawn in Brexit” and will become even more British after leaving the union.
Draft Brexit negotiating guidelines, sent out on Friday, contain a clause suggesting that Spain will be able to veto any future trade deal between the EU and the UK.
The clause has inflamed tensions over the status of ‘the Rock’, which has been held by the UK since 1713 and is home to UK military bases.
Chief minister Fabian Picardo said that Spain was “employing her unhealthy obsession with Gibraltar and bringing it to the table of a very complex negotiation already”.

BBC News claims the Spanish government is ‘manipulative’.

Gibraltar has accused Spain of manipulating the European Council for its own political interests.
A draft document on the EU’s Brexit strategy said no agreement on the EU’s future relationship with the UK would apply to Gibraltar without the consent of Spain, giving it a potential veto.
But Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo said this was “unacceptable”.
Conservative MPs in the UK have warned that the sovereignty of the UK overseas territory is non-negotiable.
MP Jack Lopresti said Spain was using Brexit as “a fig leaf for trouble making”, while fellow Tory Bob Neill tweeted “no sell out”.

Brexit

In other Brexit news, the Telegraph claims problems could arise in a transitional period.

Britain could be forced to accept EU law, immigration controls and budget payments after it formally leaves the bloc in 2019 if it wants a transitional period to cushion the blow of Brexit, the EU’s draft negotiating guidelines suggest.
Published by the European council president, Donald Tusk, the guidelines contained a number of demands that could be difficult for Theresa May to sell to the public and the pro-Brexit element of her party, including an extended transitional deal that could spill into a 2020 general election.
They offered a softened proposal to allow talks on Britain’s future relationship with the EU to begin after “sufficient progress” has been made on negotiating a withdrawal agreement, which would include settling the UK’s bills and citizens’ rights.

And the Mirror quotes the European Council president.

Donald Tusk says the EU won’t pursue a punitive divorce settlement with the UK because “Brexit is punitive enough.”
The European Council President said the UK will have to wait to start negotiating a trade deal until after the divorce deal has made “sufficient progress.”
And he said the idea Theresa May sought to use international terror security as a ‘bargaining chip’ in the negotiations “must be a misunderstanding”.
In draft negotiation guidelines issued to the 27 remaining member states today, Mr Tusk announced a ‘phased approach’ to negotiations.
He spoke firmly in a press conference in Valetta, Malta, insisting parallel negotiations “will not happen.”
He said: “We treat [the principles announced today] as fundamental and will stand by them.”

BBC News claims there is ‘clear blue water’ between the two negotiating teams.

A tale of two sentences, drafted in two different capitals, exposes the clear blue water between London and Brussels.
In Theresa May’s letter triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty she states: “We believe its necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU.’
But Donald Tusk responded today: “Starting parallel talks on all issues at the same time as suggested by some in the UK will not happen.”
Bluntly, the divorce bill would have to settled before talks on trade can begin.
What’s more, only one party to the break-up, the European Council, would decide if the settlement is good enough.
This rebuff was always likely, and the Downing Street response restrained – in effect, reminding us we were simply at the beginning of the negotiating process.

The Independent claims the letter sent by the Prime Minister has been misinterpreted.

Theresa May has been forced to explain herself to top European politicians after her plan to link security cooperation to trade bargaining with the EU sparked anger on the continent.
Current holder of the EU rotating presidency Joseph Muscat and President of the European Council Donald Tusk said that following calls from London, they would take the British Government’s word that it had been a “misunderstanding”.
Ms May’s repeated connecting of security and trade issues in her letter triggering Article 50 led political leaders in both Brussels and London to claim that she was threatening to withdraw help in the fight against terrorism, in a bid to extract good trade terms. Downing Street later denied it.
But speaking as the EU formally responded to the launch of Brexit talks, Mr Muscat said: “I would like to confirm that, even though it was something that hit the headlines, and many people including ourselves noted, we have had reassurances from the British Government that this is a misinterpretation.
Scotland

In other news, the Times reports a threat by Nicola Sturgeon.

Nicola Sturgeon has issued a thinly veiled threat to launch a campaign of disruption and non-cooperation if Theresa May refuses to compromise over an independence referendum.
Scotland’s first minister sent her formal request for the power to hold a new vote to Mrs May yesterday. She argued that there was “no rational reason” why talks in the near future should be turned down. The prime minister will send her official response in the next few days but Downing Street made it clear that Mrs May was not prepared to soften her opposition to a new poll or even talks on one until after a Brexit deal was concluded.

NHS

The Times claims the National Health Service needs a lot of money.

The NHS needs a £10 billion fund to implement the plan its leader laid out yesterday, a review commissioned by ministers has concluded.
The health service’s infrastructure budget is “insufficient” for improving care after repeated raids to bail out hospitals in the red, according to a report ordered by the Department of Health.
Bank loans might be needed to reform the NHS if the Treasury will not pay for new buildings and equipment, Sir Robert Naylor concluded.
He was asked last year by Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, to report on how the NHS could raise cash by selling off surplus land.

And the Independent reports waiting time targets have been scrapped.

An effective abandonment of NHS waiting times targets will cause more “discomfort and pain” for elderly patients, it has been claimed.
The changes announced by health service chief Simon Stevens have prompted widespread anger, with politicians, charities and health bodies labelling them “appalling”.
Under the shake-up, patients face longer waits for non-emergency surgery such as cataract operations and hip replacements in a “trade off” for improved care elsewhere, such as cancer diagnosis and in A&E departments, said Mr Stevens.
But the British Medical Association (BMA) said the plans show the NHS is at “breaking point” and meeting one promise by missing another “should not be happening in today’s NHS”.
A target that no patient should have to wait longer than 18 weeks for a hospital operation from when they are referred by their GP has been in place since 2004, but the number of patients waiting longer than that is rising.

EU

Elsewhere, on the Continent EU bosses are worried about the possibility of Marine Le Pen winning the French presidential election, reports Breitbart.

Top eurocrats fear that should Marine Le Pen win the French presidency, the European Union will not survive.
“From the [European] Commission’s point of view, success for Marine Le Pen is a disaster and an existential threat to the European project,” a top official from the bloc’s unelected executive told Politico. “We can survive a Brexit, but not a Frexit.”
Ms. Le Pen has stopped short of openly endorsing French withdrawal from the EU, but has pledged a “France First” economic policy should she win office, levying taxes on companies which move jobs out of the country and reintroducing the French franc alongside the pan-European, German-dominated euro currency – policies which would fall foul of EU law.

And Breitbart claims the EU will prevent the UK cutting taxes and unwanted regulations after Brexit.

The European Union will seek to establish a Brexit deal with the United Kingdom which prevents its government from cutting taxes, scrapping burdensome regulations, or supporting industries through more liberal state aid.
The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, laid out the bloc’s draft guidelines on the upcoming Brexit negotiations in Malta.  “Any free trade agreement should be balanced, ambitious and wide-ranging [but] cannot, however, amount to participation in the Single Market or parts thereof, as this would undermine its integrity and proper functioning,” he stated.
Tusk then went on to say this limited trade agreement would come with various strings attached: “It must ensure a level playing field in terms of competition and state aid, and must encompass safeguards against unfair competitive advantages through, inter alia, fiscal, social and environmental dumping.”

Corbyn

The Labour Party is still in trouble, reports the Mail.

Jeremy Corbyn has a lower approval rating among Britons than Donald Trump, according to a poll.
Just 17 per cent of the public believe the Labour leader is performing well, the research by GfK found.
By contrast 18 per cent think the US president is doing a good job.
There was a crumb of comfort in that his disapproval rating was marginally lower than Mr Trump’s, at 58 per cent to 60 per cent.
But the result underlines the scale of the task Mr Corbyn faces in order to turn around Labour’s fortunes.

Polar bears

UKIPDaily makes no comment about this piece in the Telegraph, merely pointing out the date is April 1.

Anybody venturing to Scotland normally has only the midges to avoid. Now there’s an altogether more terrifying, not so wee beastie lurking in the woods.
For scientists with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have discovered a polar bear living on an island in the Outer Hebrides.
The images and video footage were captured by a dog walker on North Uist. Its authenticity has been verified by the WWF.
Scientists believe the bear may have been forced to head south after finding itself stranded on a melting sheet of ice that broke away from the Arctic ice cap.
Data tracking suggests more polar bears are likely to follow the same route in coming months and years as the ice cap continues to diminish.

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