Brexit

A Labour peer has promised that the House of Lords will dilute the Brexit bill when it comes before them, says the Mail

Peers will water down the historic Brexit Bill when it comes to the House of Lords, Baroness Chakrabarti has vowed.
The Labour frontbencher said she believed the upper chamber would take the ‘opportunity’ to amend the legislation.
The new laws are due to be considered by peers for the first time on Monday at the start of detailed scrutiny a fortnight after the Bill was agreed by a landslide in the Commons.
Amendments on the rights of EU citizens currently living in Britain after Brexit and the timing of Parliamentary votes on Brexit deal are expected to be the focus of any rebellion.
Other proposals down for debate include the Liberal Democrat plan for a second referendum.  

And the Independent claims the House of Commons has the right to a second vote when the outcome of negotiations is known.

MPs are legally entitled to a second vote on whether to enact Brexit once negotiations with the EU are complete – meaning Article 50 could be revocable, leading lawyers have concluded.
Legal experts submitted the opinion to the House of Lords, which is currently considering whether to join MPs in backing a bill which empowers Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger Article 50. The Article is the formal mechanism through which a country can officially notify the European Union of its intention to leave, thereby beginning negotiations for withdrawal.
Known as the ‘Three Knights Opinion’ the legal opinion will be read by peers in the upper chamber in advance of the second reading for the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal Bill) which begins on Monday.
It is compiled by some of the UK’s most senior law experts; Sir David Edward, former judge of the European Court of Justice, Sir Francis Jacobs, former Advocate General of the same court, and EU lawyer Sir Jeremy Lever.
According to Bindmans law firm, the legal group which represented some of the challengers in the High Court and Supreme Court cases, the submission states: “The 2017 Bill will allow the Prime Minister to notify the UK’s intention to leave the EU and to start the Article 50 process, but that actual withdrawal from the EU will need to be authorised by Parliament in a future Act, once the outcome of the negotiations, and the impact on individual and business rights, is known.

But one member of the EU will not agree to any deal unless the UK pays heavily for leaving, says the Express.

ROMANIA today laid down its red lines for the upcoming Brexit negotiations by insisting that its citizens must be allowed to stay in Britain as part of any deal struck by Brussels.
The Eastern European state said securing residency rights for its people and a bumper exit payment from Westminster were its key demands for the upcoming divorce talks.
There were an estimated 223,000 Romanians living in the UK in 2015, a number which was likely boosted further by a surge in arrivals from the country throughout last year.
Record levels of migration from EU countries played a pivotal role in the Brexit referendum, with many parts of the country heavily affected by the issue voting to leave. 

Business rates

Plans for business rates to be reformed have been slated in the Telegraph.

Three former trade secretaries have criticised Britain’s business rates system and demanded reforms after a week of growing pressure on the Government.
Lord Tebbit, Sir Vince Cable and Dame Margaret Beckett all voiced concerns to The Telegraph amid a backlash over a rates rise due in April.
Lord Tebbit, who held the trade brief under Margaret Thatcher, warned that the high street would be disproportionately hit and called for a new Cabinet committee to consider solutions.
Sir Vince, the Liberal Democrat who served during the Coalition, described the current regime as “deeply flawed”, while Labour’s Dame Margaret warned about the impact on the economy.
The fact that leading figures on all sides of the political spectrum want reforms adds weight to calls for the Government to alter its approach.

And the Mail claims the reforms could have a negative effect on our High Streets.

The business rates shake-up could turn Britain into a retail wasteland, a shopkeeper warned last night.
Speaking out for thousands of struggling traders across the land, Tom Innes said ‘out of touch’ ministers risked killing high streets.
He said small shops facing huge rate hikes had to compete on unequal terms with internet giants such as Amazon whose rates are being cut.
The wine merchant, from Monmouth, a quiet market town on the Welsh borders, condemned the Government’s tax grab in an extraordinary letter to David Gauke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
He accused the minister of living in ignorance in the Westminster ‘hothouse’ while ordinary communities suffered.

The Times claims the shake up could affect faster broadband.

Millions of homes may be denied access to fast broadband connections as a result of tax increases, the chancellor has been warned.
Britain’s two largest broadband providers say that they are facing an increased bill of £1.3 billion over the next five years as new business rates kick in from April. They say that the money would be enough to connect or upgrade more than two million homes to superfast internet.
The warning, from BT and Virgin Media, comes after a week of complaints from the 500,000 businesses facing higher bills, including many high street shops, restaurants and pubs.
It is widely expected among Tory MPs and industry sources that Philip Hammond will use his budget next month to soften the impact.

Labour Party

The official Parliamentary opposition continues it’s turmoil says the Independent.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has been plunged into fresh turmoil by the sudden resignation of one of his closest aides.
Campaigns chief Simon Fletcher stood down after what appeared to be clashes with Mr Corbyn’s inner team over Labour’s direction.
The departure follows the resignations of four shadow Cabinet members over Mr Corbyn’s support for the Article 50 bill amid plummeting poll ratings.
And it comes just six days before two crucial by-elections – in Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland – which are widely seen as must-wins for Labour.
Officially, Mr Fletcher, who was previously Mr Corbyn’s chief of staff, was said to be keen to focus on other projects.
However, one well-placed Labour source said Mr Fletcher was frustrated by an inability to force through necessary changes against internal opposition.

Housing market

In limbo following the Brexit vote, the housing market seems to have faltered, says the Times.

Homeowners are waiting up to ten months to sell their properties as inflated asking prices and economic uncertainty cause the housing market to stall.
In some areas the average wait to sell a home is nearly ten months as sellers struggle to attract interest, research by The Times has indicated.
Estate agents forecast that the number of home transactions completed in Britain will fall by 11 per cent this year, to the lowest levels since the market recovered from the 2008 financial crisis.
Dwindling interest from buyers is now prompting some owners to slash asking prices — in a number of cases by hundreds of thousands of pounds — to secure a sale.

Blair

The former Prime Minister’s big speech urging voters to ‘rise up’ and fight Brexit receives a lot of attention. The Mail accuses him of being ‘brazen’.

Tony Blair was accused of trying to undermine democracy last night after he delivered an extraordinary appeal to Remainers to ‘rise up’ and revolt against Brexit.
In a brazen attempt to re-enter the British political arena, the former prime minister insisted it was ‘not inevitable’ that the UK will leave the European Union – because the public might change their minds.
And he made the incendiary claim that people only voted to leave last June because they did not understand the true cost of walking out.
Mr Blair said it should be the ‘mission’ of progressives to persuade Leave voters to shift their view by highlighting ‘all the pain’ that will ensue if we leave. ‘This is not the time for retreat, indifference or despair; but the time to rise up in defence of what we believe,’ he added.

The Mail also reports the reaction of the Foreign Secretary.

Boris Johnson laid into Tony Blair over his ‘condescending’ bid to reverse the EU referendum vote today – saying people should switch off the TV when the former PM appears.
Mr Blair faced a huge backlash after he used a speech in London to unveil his ‘mission’ to keep us in the EU – despite conceding that the public do not agree with him.
The ex-premier demanded that voters stop worrying so much about immigration and ‘rethink’ their decision before the country goes ‘over a cliff edge’.
But Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson delivered a devastating response, pointing out that Mr Blair had wanted to join the euro and ‘dragooned’ the UK into the disastrous Iraq war.
‘I urge the British people to rise up and turn off the TV next time Blair comes on with his condescending campaign,’ he said.

The Independent claims Blair has been criticised by members of the Labour Party.

Tony Blair faced a backlash from some of his own supporters after his call for millions of worried Britons to rise up to halt Brexit.
Blairite Labour MPs joined the Conservatives and Ukip in criticising the former Prime Minister for refusing to accept “the result of the referendum”.
One shadow minister, Jenny Chapman, warned the controversial intervention was a “mistake” that could create even more damaging divisions in the country than leaving the EU.
And Caroline Flint, a former minister, said Mr Blair was premature to warn of the economic damage from Theresa May’s “Brexit at any cost” – because the future “terms of the trade” were still up for grabs.

And the Mirror reports that Blair is to form a movement to continue the fight.

Tony Blair has vowed to build a cross-party “movement” to keep Britain inside the EU.
In a dramatic comeback speech the former Labour Prime Minister blamed his own party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn for letting Brexit happen.
Mr Blair vowed to use his new think-tank to work across party lines and build a real opposition to Brexit .
Raging against “the absence of an Opposition which looks capable of beating the Government,” Mr Blair said: “The debilitation of the Labour Party is the facilitator of Brexit.
“I hate to say that, but it is true.
“What this means is that we have to build a movement which stretches across party lines.”

The Independent reports Blair saying the UK could pull back from Brexit.

Tony Blair has insisted Brexit is not “inevitable”, as he urged “millions” of Britons worried about leaving to fight to stop it.
In a controversial intervention in the Brexit debate, the former Prime Minister called for a “revolt” to halt withdrawal, similar to the populist wave that won the referendum.
“The one incontrovertible characteristic of politics today is its propensity for revolt,” Mr Blair told a London audience.
“The Brexiteers were the beneficiaries of this wave, but now they want to freeze it to a date in June 2016.
“They will say the will of the people can’t alter. It can. They will say that leaving is inevitable. It isn’t.
“They will say they don’t represent the will of the people. We do, many millions of them and – with determination – many millions more.”

And the Guardian also reports the criticism.

Tony Blair faces a backlash from Labour MPs for fuelling the party’s divisions over Brexit, as he launched a campaign to keep the UK in the EU ahead of two crucial byelections in leave-voting seats.
In a major intervention on Friday, the former prime minister accused a weakened Labour party of allowing Brexit to happen, and called for a cross-party political movement to persuade people that the costs of leaving will be painful.
“The debilitation of the Labour party is the facilitator of Brexit. I hate to say that, but it is true,” he said in the speech at Bloomberg in central London. “What this means is that we have to build a movement which stretches across party lines, and devise new ways of communication.”
His call for millions to “rise up” against Brexit was met with enthusiasm by some of the 47 Labour MPs opposing Brexit and senior Lib Dems such as Nick Clegg and Tim Farron. Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader and first minister of Scotland, also praised Blair’s “quality of analysis and argument”, after he acknowledged Brexit had made the case for Scottish independence “more credible”.

The Express says support for Brexit is growing.

SUPPORT to “get on with” Brexit is growing despite a desperate bid by Tony Blair yesterday to urge voters to think again.
The ex-prime minister’s call for pro-Europeans to “rise up” came as a poll found the vast majority of voters wanted politicians to get on with quitting.
Mr Blair’s arrogant speech sparked outrage and even some Remain supporters were aghast at his bid to reverse June’s historic decision to leave the European Union.
Respected pollsters ICM revealed that 68 per cent of voters now agreed the Government should “get on with implementing the result of the referendum… and in doing so take back control of our borders, laws, money and trade”.
That was up from 54 per cent in December when people were asked a similar question.
Significantly, 42 per cent of Remain voters now back swift progress – up from 26 per cent in December. 

And the newest website, Westmonster, claims voters are more keen on Brexit now they have seen that the sky will not fall in.

The numbers of diehard Remainers who don’t want to see Brexit implemented and the referendum result respected has shrunk to a miniscule 15%.
An ICM poll shows that a whopping 68% now want to see the result respected and the government getting on with the task of taking the UK out of the European Union.
It demonstrates once more just how peripheral the likes of Tony Blair and Tim Farron are to the national debate as the numbers opposed to Brexit continue to drop.
Yes, they do speak for some. But they are very few in number as the country rallies behind making a massive success of Brexit.

Sky News also has a report of Blair’s speech.

Tony Blair has been accused of “insulting the intelligence” of voters and “arrogance” after he urged opponents of Brexit to “rise up” against leaving the EU.
The former prime minister said voters backed severing ties with Brussels without knowing the true cost and should have the chance to change their minds.
In a speech in London, Mr Blair questioned whether the referendum had given a mandate for “Brexit at any cost”.
But 
his intervention has drawn the ire of Brexit supporters, with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson accusing him of “insulting the intelligence” of those who voted to leave.
The leader of the official Vote Leave campaign in the referendum said: “I respectfully say to Tony Blair, those who call the British people to rise up against Brexit, I urge the British people to rise up and turn off the TV the next time Blair comes on with his condescending campaign.”

EU

The Mirror reports ministerial plans for EU residents.

EU nationals working in Britain could be barred from claiming benefits and kicked out once their jobs finish, under new plans considered in Whitehall.
Ministers are finalising plans to classify how EU citizens arriving in the UK post-Brexit.
In his column for The Sun today, James Forsyth reveals mandarins have put forward the option of blocking EU nationals from accessing Britain’s welfare system – unless they can support themselves.
It would mean a worker from Spain who managed to secure a few weeks’ menial work in a shop would be denied access.
Only those with jobs that would allow them to pay private rent without the need to be topped up with tax credits or require social housing would be given the green light.

Le Pen

Across the Channel, the right-wing candidate is flourishing, says the Express.

MARINE Le Pen has dramatically slashed the gap to her rivals and could be set to emulate Donald Trump’s shock charge towards the White House, the latest polls for the French presidential election show today.
The Front National leader has reeled in both her conservative rival Francois Fillon and centrist Emmanuel Macron and now sits on a similar level of support to that attracted by the Republican 80 days ahead of his surprise victory.
Polling for the all-important second round of voting to decide who will become the next French president shows she is still lagging behind both men, but by a significantly smaller margin that just a few weeks ago.
The unexpected results are a sign of the political momentum growing behind the controversial nationalist chief, who has been hoovering up votes amongst France’s disaffected working classes and legions of young unemployed. 

And in Germany, it seems that Mrs Merkel is not a certainty to continue her chancellorship, says Breitbart.

In a straight race between the two most popular candidates to fill Germany’s top political office, long-time member of the European Parliament and enthusiastic EU acolyte Martin Schulz would beat incumbent Angela Merkel, according to a new poll.
A Schulz victory could upset the balance of power in Europe, and rock Germany which has been ruled by the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) for 12 years.
While the latest figures from German pollsters indicate the ruling CDU remain fractionally ahead, enjoying a significantly reduced majority which has dropped as much as ten points in a year, in a presidential style rather than federal election the left-wing Schulz would win. 
Welt reports some 49 per cent of Germans opted for Schulz, whereas just 38 per cent wanted Merkel to stay on, a six-point fall in just two weeks.

Bioterrorism

The Telegraph has an apocalyptic story today following a warning by Bill Gates.

Bioterrorists could one day kill hundreds of millions in an attack more deadly than nuclear war, Bill Gates will warn world leaders.
Rapid advances in genetic engineering have opened the door for small terrorism groups to tailor and easily weaponise disease viruses.
A resulting pandemic is currently one of the most deadly threats faced by the world, he believes, yet governments are complacent about the scale of the risk.
Speaking ahead of an address to the Munich Security Conference, the richest man in the world said that while governments are concerned with the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons, they are overlooking the threat of biological warfare.
Mr Gates, whose charitable foundation is funding research into quickly spotting outbreaks and speeding up vaccine production, said the defence and security establishment “have not been following biology and I’m here to bring them a little bit of bad news”.

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