Brexit

The negotiations are not going well, says Westmonster.

The government could be on the brink of offering the EU “concessions on immigration” in the next round of negotiations with Brussels.
According to a piece by James Forsyth in The Spectator: “Unfortunately, the European Union is about to take a wrecking ball to this carefully constructed compromise. The EU doesn’t much like its deal with Switzerland and is currently trying to pressure the Swiss into accepting changes. The idea of handing that kind of arrangement to the UK – and without free movement – won’t appeal.
“The UK has at least held some things back for the negotiations. I understand that one paper circulated to senior Cabinet Ministers in recent weeks suggested that if the EU doesn’t bite on May’s proposals, Britain could offer concessions on immigration in an attempt to make them more palatable.”

And Breitbart also reports the forthcoming expected concessions.

The government is preparing to hand the European Union (EU) even more immigration “concessions” in Brexit talks, after already bowing to almost all of the bloc’s demands on this issue.
EU leaders this week rejected many of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit proposals, including a compromise on the Irish border, remaining in some EU agencies, and allowing the UK to mirror many EU rules for market access.
Instead, they offered the UK only the options of remaining in the Single Market and keeping the Irish border open, or a Canada-style trade deal with a border in the Irish Sea and limited access to markets.

But Gibraltarians have been given assurances, reports the Mail.

Ministers are guaranteeing Gibraltar that Spain will not be allowed to exclude it from any post-Brexit deal struck with the EU.
The commitment comes amid fears that Madrid is seeking to exploit its leverage over Brexit to reopen the question of the Rock’s sovereignty.
The European Council sparked anger by granting Spain a veto over the territory’s fate after Brexit.
The move raised the prospect of the UK being forced to choose between the Rock and a potential deal with the EU.
Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo is in London for talks with ministers over the negotiations today.

And the Sun claims the Chancellor is being pressured to create a business hub in the north east.

PHILIP HAMMOND is being urged to kick-start Brexit and back plans for a tariff-free manufacturing hub the size of Heathrow – in TEESSIDE.
Cabinet Ministers are lobbying the Chancellor to approve unprecedented plans for a 4,500 acre “freeport” on the banks of the River Tees near Redcar.
Tory Teesside Mayor Ben Houchen met with Treasury Ministers earlier this week – and officially asked the Treasury to green light it for 2021.
The freeport would sit outside of UK customs – allowing manufacturers to import materials and components from around the world and re-export them free of any tariff.

The Guardian claims the devolved assemblies may have to rethink some of their plans.

The UK government has told Scottish and Welsh ministers they are likely to be barred from controlling policy in areas such as genetically modified crops, fishing quotas and farm payments after Brexit.
Mike Russell, Scotland’s Brexit minister, accused Westminster of undermining the constitution after the Cabinet Office published a list of 24 areas it said were likely to need UK-wide common agreements when EU powers were repatriated.
The office said it wanted to centralise control at UK level in 12 areas, including migrant access to welfare benefits, state aid for key industries, data protection, energy labelling, internet security and radioactive materials. 

Yet Sky News reports on proposals for Scotland and Wales.

The Government has published “cast iron evidence” Brexit legislation will result in new powers for the UK’s devolved administrations, as it battles to win approval for a key bill.
In a provisional analysis of powers to return from Brussels after the UK quits the EU, the Government says “extensive new powers” will be handed to Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh.
In a study of 153 areas where EU laws intersect with devolved powers, the Government insists the “vast majority” of powers returning from Brussels will go straight to devolved governments on the first day the UK leaves the EU.

BBC News also covers the story.

The UK government has named 24 devolved areas where it wants to temporarily retain power following Brexit.
Ministers in the Scottish and Welsh governments want subjects such as food labelling and animal welfare to come under their control.
However, UK ministers are bidding to oversee those areas, and others on the list, when the UK leaves the EU.
The Scottish government has accused the UK government of a power grab and has introduced its own Brexit legislation.
Ministers at Westminster insist that “the vast majority of powers returning from Brussels will start off in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast”.

And some members of Scottish Labour have been warned off their stance, says the Morning Star.

RIGHTWINGERS in Scottish Labour were told to back off from the “dangerous game” of opposing Brexit at the party’s conference yesterday.
Shadow Scottish secretary Lesley Laird, a Westminster MP currently serving as Scottish Labour’s interim deputy leader, fired a warning shot after an intervention from the right failed to put EU single market membership on the agenda.
Scottish Labour for the Single Market, which is backed by former Holyrood leader Kezia Dugdale and ex-shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray, had promoted a conference motion calling for Britain to remain in the single market.

EU

Far from the bloc promising not to ‘punish’ the UK for leaving, the Express claims it is ready to launch a trade war.

EUROPE is poised to slap huge tariffs on British imports despite such a move being likely to ignite a ferocious trade war across the continent. Experts warn the move is distinct “possibility”, but have insisted preventing British goods from entering the EU would lead to catastrophic consequences for the Union.
The analysis comes after a tense week of talks between Britain and the European Union.
Insiders revealed the EU is looking at bullying the UK into giving the bloc free access to the UK markets while potentially denying or restricting access for British exports with tariffs.
The plans were said to have been put forward by the European Commission.

The Telegraph concentrates on possible exemptions from US tariffs.

Britain faces huge fines in an EU legal battle that would poison the Brexit negotiations, if Liam Fox secures a UK-only exemption from Donald Trump’s trade tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.
The British Trade Secretary, who on Thursday accused the EU of acting like a gang in Brexit talks, said he would use a trip to Washington next week to secure a British carve-out from the US President’s levy of 25pc tariffs on steel and 10pc on aluminium.

And the bloc is butting into trade talks between the US and the UK over steel says Breitbart.

The European Union (EU) is urging the U.S. not to exclude the UK from steel tariffs, demanding President Donald J. Trump treats the UK as part of “a whole body” EU, even as it leaves the bloc.
The President signed an executive order on Thursday night, bringing forth the 25 per cent levy on steel imports, but said he could exclude Canada and Mexico.
The UK, which is leaving the EU and looking to build new trade links with the U.S., is also pushing to be excluded, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said.

The trade secretary describes the prospective steel tariffs as ‘absurd’ says the Independent.

Liam Fox has said it would be “absurd” for the UK to be hit by punishing trade tariffs on steel imports to the US, and vowed to seek an exemption from Donald Trump on a visit to Washington next week.
The International Trade Secretary said Mr Trump’s plan to impose sweeping tariffs on metal imports was the “wrong way” to deal with the problem of cheap overseas steel, as the move prompted fears of a transatlantic trade war.
The President announced on Thursday that he had signed an executive order to slap tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, as part of efforts to protect American jobs and national security – but he hinted that exemptions would be possible for allies such as Canada and Mexico.

The Express reports that Dr Fox is to go to the US for talks.

LIAM Fox is to fly to the US next week to lobby for Britain to be spared from punitive new tariffs on steel after branding Donald Trump’s trade war “absurd”.
The International Trade Secretary, usually one of leading supporters of trans-Atlantic links in the Cabinet, hit out at the President’s “America First” plans for a swingeing 25 per cent charge on metal imports.
While the President has signalled that some “friendly” nations could be exempt from the tariffs, the UK could still suffer because of its membership of the EU and the expected close links with Brussels during the proposed transition period after Brexit.

Trade

In other trade deals, the Times reports success in negotiations with Sauda Arabia.

The government has signed an outline deal with Saudi Arabia for the sale of 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, reigniting a row with Labour over arms sales and the war in Yemen.
The deal, likely to help save thousands of jobs in the north of England and expected to be worth more than £5 billion, was signed yesterday by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to Britain and by Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary.
The deal will be welcomed at Warton, Lancashire, where the swing-role combat aircraft are built by BAE Systems. Its aerospace division laid off 1,400 people last autumn.

And the Independent claims a provisional agreement has been signed.

Saudi Arabia has signed a provisional agreement with the British Government to buy 48 of the UK’s Typhoon fighter jets.
If finalised, the deal struck on the final day of the visit from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman would be a major boost for BAE Systems – which employs some 35,000 people in Britain.
But with the Saudi regime embroiled in a bloody bombing campaign in Yemen, which has killed large numbers of civilians and precipitated a humanitarian crisis, the deal will anger anti-war campaigners.
Announcing the deal after a meeting with the Crown Prince, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said it had “opened a new chapter in our two countries’ historic relationship”.

Russian spy

The poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury is continuing to make the news. The Mail reports:

Detectives in Hazmat suits descended on the cemetery where the wife and son of poisoned Russian spy Sergei Skripal are buried to remove items from their graves and decide whether or not they will exhume a body.
The graveyard became the focus of the investigation after it emerged Mr Skripal’s wife Liudmila and son Alexander both passed away in recent years. Mr Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, are still fighting for their lives in hospital after being attacked with a deadly nerve agent in Salisbury.
Skripal’s wife Liudmila was buried in 2012 and the ashes of his son Alexander were flown to the UK last year after he died from apparent liver failure while in Russia. 

And the Star warns that the grave of the spy’s wife could hold more than her body.

THE graves of poisoned Russian spy Sergei Skripal’s wife and son could have been boobytrapped.
Teams of officers wearing hazard protection suits removed items from a cemetery in Salisbury, Wilts, where the pair are buried.
The materials were then taken in a large convoy, which included several Army trucks and police vehicles, to Salisbury District Hospital for analysis.
convoy of military vehicles also rolled into the car park at the hospital to recover a police car.
One theory police are probing is the possibility that the graves were booby-trapped to poison Mr Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia.
Mr Skripal’s house and his car have also been cordoned off.

The Sun reports on the army of soldiers sent to the town to help in the investigation.

THE army has sent 180 soldiers to bolster an investigation into an attempt on the life of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal, while the cordon around his home was doubled.
It is now feared that Mr Skripal – who was convicted in his home country for selling secrets to MI6 – was singled out for a state-sponsored nerve agent assassination plot at home.
Skripal’s daughter Yulia and 21 others including a hero police officer being treated.
Counter-terror police are trying to pin down the source of the chemical weapon used against the 66-year-old ex-spy and his daughter, 33.
Both remain seriously ill in hospital following the murder bid on Sunday.

Retaliation is being discussed, reports the Mirror.

Britain was last night poised to smash Vladimir Putin ’s network of gangster allies with cash and travel freezes – as the nerve agent toll hit 21.
Cut off from billions in assets and cash, and with visas restricted, the Russian President’s powerful Red Mafia supporters could turn against him during his election campaign.
As the race to find the suspected Russian hit squad continued, police searched a maroon BMW, believed to belong to ex-Kremlin agent Sergei Skripal , 66, who was attacked with his daughter Yulia, 33.
Both are fighting for their lives. Hero policeman Det Sgt Nick Bailey, who tried to save them in Salisbury, Wilts, on Sunday is seriously ill.
A total of 21 people have been treated for nerve agent poisoning .

The Sun also outlines the prospect of retaliation.

THERESA May is drawing up a “full spectrum” retaliation against Vladimir Putin for the nerve agent hit on spy Sergei Skripal, The Sun can reveal.
The PM has told ministers to prepare a powerful response across diplomatic, economic and military fronts to punish the Salisbury outrage – dubbed by Home Secretary Amber Rudd as “a brazen and reckless act”.
Intelligence chiefs are just “a few days” away from establishing hard proof that poison plot was ordered by Moscow.
Senior Whitehall sources said Mrs May accepts she must then initiate a response to match the public uproar that will meet the revelation that another state was behind a chemical weapons attack on British soil.

Further afield, if the claims against Russia are proven, a boycott of the World Cup has been suggested in the Mail.

Ministers were under growing pressure last night to order a boycott of the World Cup in Russia.
As speculation mounted about Russian involvement in the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, MPs questioned whether England’s participation in the tournament should go ahead.
Whitehall sources say it may be only a matter of days before detectives are able to confirm whether there is a Russian link to the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. One MP last night described the attack as a ‘brazen act of war’.

NHS

Meanwhile, closer to home, the Mirror reports on a prospective huge pay rise for NHS staff.

More than a million NHS staff are set to get a 6.5% pay rise – but would have to give up a day’s holiday, a leaked document reveals today.
It is claimed the £3.3bn deal, spread over three years, will be offered to staff later this month after lengthy talks between unions and the government.
Yet the package would still fall short of inflation.
Labour said it was not enough – and branded the plan to cut into workers’ precious holiday “mean-spirited”.
NHS workers were already widely expected to get a pay hike from April, ending eight years of austerity, after Theresa May announced the 1% cap on rises would end.

But the Express has poured cold water on the speculation.

DOWNING Street officials today dismissed reports the Government is preparing to give NHS staff a salary boost as “speculation”. A leaked Whitehall document suggested ministers were ready to give around 1.3 million nurses and other workers a pay rise worth 6.5 per cent over the next three years.
Staff were expected to be asked to give up a day’s paid holiday in return for the £3.3billion deal, it was claimed.
A Number 10 spokesman declined to confirm or deny the offer. “Negotiations are still ongoing,” the spokesman said.
“No deal has been done yet. The reports are speculation.”

BBC News reports a deal is near.

NHS chiefs and health unions in England are understood to be close to agreeing a three-year pay deal.
Talks on an award for all health staff – except for doctors and dentists – are said to be constructive and going well.
The government has already said it would scrap the 1% cap on public sector pay, with the chancellor indicating more funding for higher wages.
Health unions are keen to negotiate a pay deal well above the cap imposed by ministers in recent years.
But BBC health editor Hugh Pym says he understands that the Department of Health and Social Care, and NHS Employers – the group representing healthcare bosses – are concerned about recruitment problems and ready to agree an award that makes up some of the lost ground.

Pressure on the NHS is growing, says Westmonster.

Pressure on the National Health Service continues to build, with Accident and Emergency waiting times hitting new highs. Demand for NHS services is growing as Britain goes on with net migration in the hundreds of thousands each year.
Just 85% of patients were seen within 4 hours in England, with nearly 23,000 operations cancelled.
Chief Executive of NHS Improvement, Ian Dalton, has said: “These figures show the continued and unprecedented pressure facing NHS services.
“Staff have coped with substantial growth in demand for emergency care during the month of February, alongside a spike in flu cases.”

Prince Charles

The heir to the throne is making changes to his workload, says the Telegraph.

The Prince of Wales announced a major restructuring of his charities ahead of his 70th birthday in November, as he began planning for a future in which he will be king.
Palace sources denied the restructure was directly related to preparations for the Prince to become the monarch, or to enable him to adapt his heavy workload to provide more support to the Queen, stressing he would not be spending less time working with his 21 charities.
Instead, it was intended to make the running of his charities more efficient to maximise their impact.

The Mail is one of the papers reporting the Prince has changed his mind about the title to be given to his wife.

The Duchess of Cornwall could become the Queen when Prince Charles is crowned King, it was claimed.
Despite years of denials by royal aides, the Clarence House website has deleted all references to Camilla being named the ‘Princess Consort’.
The Prince of Wales’s website has also removed a statement made before the couple’s marriage in 2005.
It said that ‘it was intended The Duchess will be known as HRH The Princess Consort when the Prince of Wales accedes to the throne’.
And Camilla’s biography on the website and Buckingham Palace’s page have also removed the statement. 

The Star also reports on the Prince’s proposal.

PRINCE Charles has appeared to suggest Camilla Parker Bowles will be named Queen when he becomes King after a huge hint online.
The Clarence House website has deleted all references to Camilla being named the Princess Consort.
The Prince of Wales’s website has also removed a statement made before the couple’s marriage in 2005.
It had said that “it was intended The Duchess will be known as HRH The Princess Consort when the Prince of Wales accedes to the throne”. 

The Times claims the Prince will renege on his promise that his wife will not be named Queen.

The Prince of Wales has fuelled speculation that he plans to go back on his word and make the Duchess of Cornwall queen when he accedes to the throne.
Clarence House has always been adamant that the duchess would be called the Princess Consort, a title that has never before been used for the wife of a sovereign. Modifications to Prince Charles’s official website, however, have given the impression that he is laying the ground for a change of heart.
Three separate statements that explicitly set out plans for the titles that would be used after the death of the Queen have been removed in recent months.

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