Brexit

The Guardian is one of the media which report a plan by the EU to keep us tied to the bloc’s courts.

Britain will remain under the jurisdiction of the European court of justice for years to come if it seeks a transition deal to cushion its withdrawal from the EU, the chief negotiator for the European parliament has said.
In the clearest sign to date that Britain is on a collision course with Brussels over the court, Guy Verhofstadt said European negotiators were primed to push back against Theresa May’s promises to remove the UK from the writ of European judges as soon as Britain leaves the EU in 2019.
Verhofstadt, who is representing the parliament in the article 50 negotiations, said he expected a transition agreement to be put together following the settling of Britain’s debts and before withdrawal in 2019.
But asked whether the UK would remain under the European court of justice after 2019, the former Belgian prime minister said: “The starting point from the European side will be yes.”

The Express also has the story, and MPs’ reactions.

FURY erupted today over reports that EU officials are preparing to hit Britain with a punitive £49billion bill for leaving the bloc.
Brussels sources suggested that Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, fixed the eye-watering sum at a meeting earlier this week to discuss the forthcoming departure negotiations.
He is expected to claim the cash payment is needed to cover redundancy payments and pension liabilities for EU staff set to lose their jobs as a result of Britain’s withdrawal as well as to fund already-agreed budget commitments, loan guarantees and spending on EU projects in the UK.
But critics angrily rejected the threat of a swingeing divorce settlement for British taxpayers.
Tory MP Gareth Johnson said: “There is no way the EU is going to get that kind of money from us.
“One of the reasons that we are leaving the EU is because people are fed up with paying money to Brussels which is then squandered.
“The EU needs to realise that times have changed. There is not a cat’s chance in hell of Britain paying that amount of money.”

The proposed payment is also covered in the Independent.

Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, is set to demand a €57bn (£48bn) payment from the UK to the leave the bloc.
The figure was purportedly agreed at a meeting of member states, although Sky News reported that France and Germany called for the UK to be charged at least €70bn.
Britain is committed to tens of billions in spending on EU-wide projects up until 2020, as well as the pensions of officials.
Negotiations for a potential trade agreement would only start when the final Brexit bill is reached, the meeting concluded.
It has been the firm position of several senior EU figures that trade talks can only happen after an exit deal is struck and a divorce payment agreed.
Theresa May had held out hope that separate talks and trade negotiations could be held simultaneously.

Sky News claims some countries have demanded more.

Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is set a demand €57bn (£48bn) in a divorce settlement from Britain following talks in Brussels this week.
Sky News understands the precise figure was agreed at a meeting on Monday, in which France and Germany demanded the UK is forced to pay upwards of €70bn (£59bn).
Britain is committed to tens of billions of euro in spending on EU wide projects up until 2020 as well as the pensions of officials.
The discussion ended with an agreement that any trade negotiations could only begin when the final bill is reached.
Britain had hoped that any future EU trade agreement could be agreed in parallel.
The technical meeting, ahead of Theresa May triggering Article 50 next month, is likely to cause problems as any settlement will be disputed.
In a wide-ranging discussion it was also concluded that reciprocal rights for EU nationals would have to start from “ground zero”.

EU

And in the European Union, it seems that right-wing politicians are gaining ground, says the Express.

FAR-RIGHT parties in Sweden and the Czech Republic experienced a poll bounce this week as French populist leader Marine Le Pen extended her lead ahead of the country’s presidential election.
Nationalist in the Czech Republic recorded a record level of popularity according to one survey, whilst eurosceptics in Italy continued to battle for top spot.
A slew of polls released this week provided little evidence that the populist revolution gripping Europe is losing momentum, with establishment parties like Angela Merkel’s CDU continuing to struggle.
They come as the European Parliament proposed diverting more funds from the EU budget towards “tackling populism”, saying the trend towards nationalism is threatening to rip the bloc apart.
In the Czech Republic, which is locked in a battle with Brussels over its migration quota policy, the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) scored a record high.
The party polled eight per cent in a survey released by Medea, making it the fourth largest in the country but still a long way behind the pro-Brussels ANO, which leads on 28 per cent.

The rise in ‘populism’ has to be stopped or the EU will collapse, reports Breitbart.

The former president of the European Parliament, now vying to be Germany’s next chancellor, has said populism is a “virus” that “could lead to the end of the European Union” (EU).
Martin Schultz said there was now a “real risk” the 60-year-old supranational organisation could falter in the face of nationalist attacks.
“The problem is that member states play that game: ‘There is that union, we have nothing to do with it, that union is playing against us’. That blame game is a virus which could lead to the end of the European Union,” he said.
The blunt admission of the threat comes days after Guy Verhofstadt, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, admitted the bloc faces an “existential crisis” and could “disappear” due to the rise of populism and nationalism.

But the EU army could progress faster, says the Express.

ITALY’S new prime minister Paolo Gentiloni today suggested Brexit and the election of Donald Trump is a “window of opportunity” for the creation of an EU army.
Despite admitting the “European project does not enjoy great consensus lately”, the
Italian leader signalled the remaining 27 EU member states could use the historic Brexit vote to push ahead with greater integration between some countries.
Having earlier held talks with
Theresa May in 10 Downing Street, Mr Gentiloni later told students at the London School of Economics the upcoming EU summit in Rome at the end of next month will be “a great opportunity” to set out plans for the bloc’s future.
Answering questions at the end of his speech this afternoon, Mr Gentiloni was asked whether member states were now seriously discussing the prospect of an EU army.
The Italian prime minister replied: “Are we serious in the integration? My answer could be we will see.
“I think we have a window of opportunity. Why? Because of the Brexit decision and also what happened in the US election could be a wake-up call for the EU.

NHS

In other news, the National Health Service continues to have its problems, says the Times.

Stand-in doctors are ripping off cash-strapped hospitals by demanding fees of up to £4,000 a day, an NHS watchdog has said.
Hundreds of locums are paid a quarter of a million pounds a year, according to figures seen by The Times. They reveal the scale at which the NHS is “throwing money” at doctors to plug staff shortages.
NHS leaders say that locum doctors are pocketing £300 million a year that should be used for treating patients, in their most outspoken criticism yet of high-paid stand-ins.
However, doctors reacted angrily to being blamed for a problem that they say has resulted from poor planning by managers who have not trained enough staff.

And the Star claims hospitals are like war zones.

WORKING in English hospitals is like being “in a war”.
Government adviser Patrick Carter said it was a “staggering achievement” the entire system has not collapsed.
He told doctors: “We need to be incredibly proud that our hospitals are running so hot, and yet they haven’t broken.
“It’s a staggering achievement. This is like being in a war actually and we should be extraordinarily proud of it.”But he warned: “You can’t continue on a war footing for ever.”
This winter has seen hospitals at breaking point with A&E units pushed to their limits.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has admitted there are “unacceptable” problems.
Asked about patients waiting months to be discharged, he said: “It is incredibly frustrating for me. I am doing this job because I want NHS care to be the safest and best in the world.
“That kind of care is completely unacceptable. No-one would want it for members of their own family. We are trying hard to sort out these problems.”

Honours

The Telegraph has a story about a former premier’s honours list.

David Cameron’s ‘cronies’ attempted to receive honours in secret yesterday after requesting no publicity from the media.
Sir Craig Oliver, the former Prime Minister’s director of communications, was knighted by Prince Charles during a Buckingham Palace ceremony.
Isabel Spearman, who worked as a stylist to Samantha Cameron, was also awarded an OBE.
The pair had both indicated before the investiture ceremony that they did not want to comment to the press.
The former prime minister’s “crony” honours list was criticised after it emerged that he awarded a number former aides, donors and senior Remain campaigners peerages, knighthoods and other honours.

Bercow

Parliament’s Speaker is in the news again, this time following claims that he wants to stay in post for another three years, says the Telegraph.

John Bercow has “orchestrated” a row over Donald Trump’s visit to the UK in order to allow him to stay in post as Commons Speaker until 2020, Government sources believe.
Mr Bercow was accused of violating his political impartiality after he said on Monday that he wanted to prevent the US president from addressing Parliament during a forthcoming state visit.
He said that he wanted to stop Mr Trump from speaking in Westminster Hall because of his “racism and sexism”.
It prompted one Conservative MP, James Duddridge, to table a motion of no confidence in Mr Bercow, which has been formally supported by two Tory backbenchers.
However, Cabinet ministers have told the Telegraph that they believe Mr Bercow intentionally created the row as part of a plot to ensure he stays on as Commons Speaker until at least 2020.
It had previously been expected that Mr Bercow would stand down next year.
But after making his comments about Mr Trump, Mr Bercow has been supported by numerous MPs from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, who said that they will oppose any bid to oust him.
It means it is likely that Mr Bercow will be able to remain in post for years. It is understood that Mr Bercow has told friends and allies he wants to remain in post until at least 2020.

The Express also reports the attempts to kick him out.

A BITTER row has broken out about the future of Commons Speaker John Bercow after a Tory MP launched a bid to oust him.
James Duddridge tabled a parliamentary motion of no confidence in the Speaker and predicted he could be “dead in the water” within days if MPs made public their private concerns about Mr Bercow.
But supporters of Mr Bercow rallied behind him, with one Labour MP branding Mr Duddridge’s move “utterly ridiculous and self-indulgent”.
Former minister Mr Duddridge said he had been “amazed” by the level of support he had received since speaking out about Mr Bercow’s critical comments aimed at US president Donald Trump.
The early day motion (EDM) – a way for MPs to register concern about an issue – was tabled as Parliament rose for its February recess, which Mr Duddridge said would give his colleagues time to think about the issue.
He suggested that by the time MPs come back to Westminster on February 20, Mr Bercow may realise his position is “untenable, perhaps even to the point that he doesn’t return on the Monday”.

And the Express claims the Speaker covered up allegations of payments.

JOHN Bercow blocked warnings of police investigations into shamed Labour MP Keith Vaz after receiving tens of thousands of pounds from donors allegedly linked to the politician, it has been revealed.
The donations, which may have helped Bercow hold onto his constituency in 2010 and 2015, included one payout from Narinder Chadha – the Chairman of the management board of Mr Vaz’s Silver Star Charity.
Mr Chadha has since admitted he made the donation after a recommendation from Mr Vaz, who was forced to resign as chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee after it was revealed he was involved in a sex party with two male prostitutes.
Following a Freedom of Information request by The Times, it was revealed that the Speaker amassed £41,000 from donors with links to Mr Vaz, receiving £17,500 from five sources in the space of a fortnight – just six months before the 2015 election.

The Times has the same story.

John Bercow stopped the Commons being warned about police inquiries into Keith Vaz after accepting tens of thousands of pounds from the MP’s associates.
The Speaker, who is required to be scrupulously fair as chairman of the lower house, took the gifts to help him to hold on to his parliamentary seat at the general elections in 2010 and 2015.
The Times used the Freedom of Information Act to request details of all Mr Vaz’s communications with the Speaker’s office but Mr Bercow forbade any material to be disclosed. He signed a formal certificate presented to Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s information commissioner, saying that to hand anything over would “prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs”.

Labour Party

Parliament’s opposition is still in disarray, reports the Independent.

Jeremy Corbyn is poised to remove his elections co-ordinator, less then a fortnight before two crucial Westminster by-elections.
Jon Trickett will be shifted to a different role after criticism of his preparations for both this month’s polls and the general election to follow, sources said.
A Labour source insisted today that “any suggestion of Jon Trickett being sacked or demoted is wrong”.
Nevertheless, moving him will raise alarm among Labour MPs and supporters about the state of the party’s campaigning in both Stoke and Copeland, ahead of the by-elections on February 23.
Labour is reported to be trailing UKIP in private polling in Stoke-on-Trent Central, where the party’s public split over Brexit could hand new UKIP leader Paul Nuttall the seat.
In Copeland, in Cumbria, Mr Corbyn’s lukewarm support for the nuclear industry could open the door for the Conservatives – in a constituency Labour has held for 80 years.
If so, it would be the first time the Government has won a seat off the official opposition since the Tories took Mitcham and Morden, in London, way back in 1982.

Troops in Iraq

The Mail reports the plan to scrap the probe into allegations of abuse in Iraq.

The government’s £60million probe into alleged abuse by British troops in Iraq should be scrapped immediately, a damning report by MPs is expected to say.
Tory backbencher Johnny Mercer, who is leading a parliamentary inquiry into Ihat, said he believed a ‘rotten core’ of civil servants had warped the purpose of the process.
The report is set to blame the Ministry of Defence for creating a system that allowed Phil Shiner, the disgraced human rights lawyer, to bring criminal cases against former soldiers on an ‘industrial scale’.
The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat), which was established in 2010 to probe claims of abuse of civilians following the 2003 invasion, has been heavily criticised for leading a ‘witch-hunt’ and is estimated to have cost £36.3 million to date.
But the MoD has said it is obliged to investigate criminal allegations and the existence of Ihat keeps British soldiers from being hauled through international courts.
The Defence Sub-Committee’s report on the support given to former and serving personnel who face legal proceedings is due to be published on February 15.
Since its launch there have been 3,392 cases lodged with Ihat, two thirds of which were brought by Shiner and his firm, Public Interest Lawyers (PIL).

BBC News also carries the report.

A probe into allegations made against Iraq war veterans will be shut down within months, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has announced.
The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) will close in the summer and around 20 remaining cases will be given to the Royal Navy Police, he said.
MPs have branded the probe, which has spent £34m but led to no successful prosecutions, an “unmitigated failure”.
The IHAT was set up in 2010 to examine allegations made by Iraqi civilians.
The decision to close the team comes after a public inquiry exposed the behaviour of a human rights lawyer in charge of many of the abuse allegation cases.
Phil Shiner, from the now-defunct law firm Public Interest Lawyers, was struck off for misconduct last week.
As a result, IHAT’s caseload would be reduced from 3,000 to 20 cases by the summer, a Ministry of Defence statement said.

As does ITV News

The Defence Select Committee had been due to deliver a scathing report into the Iraq Historic Investigations Team (Ihat) on Sunday.
This afternoon they got wind of the fact that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) were actually about to announce the closure of Ihat on Saturday.
There was then a scramble to be first as the Defence Committee brought forward their announcement to today so as not to be caught calling for something that had already happened.
But the MoD swiftly retaliated by bringing forward their own announcement so as not to look like they were reacting to the Committee.
It was all just a little Yes, Minister.
But there is a more serious reason why it took the MoD until now to shut down Ihat.

Scotland

It seems that some Scottish MPs are refusing to reveal their home addresses says the Times.

Some MPs are refusing to submit mileage claims to the parliamentary expenses watchdog over fears that they could reveal where they live.
Angus Robertson, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, has told MPs to stop claiming mileage expenses for journeys made by car, citing safety concerns raised by the murder of Jo Cox in Birstall last June. He said that publication of the date, mileage and approximate location of MPs’ journeys by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) was “inadvertently confirming” the home addresses of parliamentarians.
Mr Robertson pointed out that some MPs in rural constituencies in Scotland lived in villages which might have as few as four houses.

 The Morning Star claims PFI deals should be thrown out.

THE Scottish government came under increasing pressure yesterday to scrap the disastrous private finance initiatives used to build schools and hospitals following a damning report into Edinburgh school closures.
The Unite union called for the immediate scrapping of the initiatives after Professor John Cole published a report into the closure of 17 Edinburgh schools built using private finance. The report was carried out following the collapse of a wall in a primary school in January last year.
Schools were shut for five months while investigations were ongoing, disrupting 8,400 pupils, their parents and teachers.
The report found that brick walls in four other schools fell down in high winds in 2012, but nothing was done about it.
Unite deputy Scottish secretary Mary Alexander warned that the report showed that “local councils were being held at gun point to use private finance.”
She said: “Even if it was shown that it was cheaper to use traditional public-sector borrowing, local authorities were being told quite clearly that PFI was the only game in town.”

And the Express claims Scotland could stay in the EU following Brexit.

NICOLA Sturgeon’s hopes of keeping Scotland in the EU were handed a boost today after the European Parliament was told Edinburgh could secure special terms with Brussels.
The SNP chief’s hopes of staying in the single market were given a cautious seal of approval by a pro-Brussels constitutional expert who was grilled by MEPs in the Belgian capital.
Experienced political advisor Dr Kirsty Hughes, who is a senior fellow at the pro-EU Friends of Europe think-tank, said she did “not accept” that it would be legally and politically impossible for Ms Sturgeon to seal a deal.
And she railed against the quality of the Brexit debate unfolding in the United Kingdom, warning that relations between England and Scotland will become “very difficult” over the issue.

Ms Sturgeon has, according to BBC News, contacted the Prime Minister over child refugees.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to Theresa May urging her to reverse a decision to cut off a “vital route to safety” for child refugees.
The UK government has come under fire for ending the “Dubs amendment” scheme in March after taking in 350 children.
Ms Sturgeon said the scheme was “the only reliable and legal route” for unaccompanied child refugees.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the scheme “acts as a pull” factor and “encourages people traffickers”.
The Home Office has insisted it is not giving up on vulnerable children and said youngsters would continue to arrive from around the world through other resettlement schemes and the asylum system.
There are an estimated 90,000 unaccompanied migrant children across Europe.

Apocalypse

The Sun has the apocalyptic story today, this one about the Earth’s magnetic field.

EARTH’S magnetic field is about to flip and it will cause CHAOS across the planet, a scientist has claimed.
Researchers have spotted an “anomaly” beneath South Africa which could indicate this rare natural phenomenon is about to hit Earth for the first time in 786,000 years.
We don’t know what the effects on Earth will be, but it’s believed the flip could cause electricity grids to go haywire – which poses the risk of causing economic chaos around the world.
Some experts have even linked pole reversals to mass extinctions, because the reversal could cause dangerous particles to rain down on the planet.
Professor John Tardun, a professor of geophysics at the University of Rochester, said: “There’s a patch of reversed polarity beneath southern Africa at the core-mantle boundary where the liquid iron outer core meets the slightly stiffer part of the Earth’s interior.
“In this area, the polarity of the field is opposite to the average global magnetic field. If we were able to use a compass deep under southern Africa, we would see that in this unusual patch north actually points south.
“We speculate that these reversed core patches grow rapidly and then wane more slowly. Occasionally one patch may grow large enough to dominate the magnetic field of the Southern Hemisphere – and the poles reverse.”

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