Brexit

How is Brexit day to be marked?  Plans are made – then abandoned.  The Times reports the PM’s plan for a light show in Downing Street.

After being forced to abandon an appeal for the public to “bung a bob for a Big Ben bong” to mark Britain’s departure from the EU, Boris Johnson has announced a plan that he hopes will make up for the silence of the bells: a light show in Downing Street.
A clock counting down to January 31 at 11pm will be projected on to Downing Street and buildings around Whitehall will light up as part of the show. Union Jacks will be flown on all the poles in Parliament Square.

iNews reports on the backlash to his scrapping of the Big Ben plans.

Boris Johnson is facing a growing backlash from Brexiteers after he abandoned plans to sound Big Ben on 31 January to mark the UK’s exit from the European Union.
No 10 said a light show as well as a clock counting down to 11pm when the UK officially leaves the EU will be projected onto Downing Street as part of the Government’s Brexit day plans, which will be streamed on social media.
The Prime Minister has been forced to distance himself from plans to chime Big Ben to recognise the UK’s departure, despite calling on the public earlier this week to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise the £500,000 needed to sound the great bell.

The Independent says he was ‘bruised’ by having to cancel plans.

A bruised Boris Johnson has sought to quell criticism of his failure to make Big Ben bong for Brexit day by announcing details of Downing Street’s own celebrations.
A clock counting down to the moment Britain leaves the EU, at 11pm on 31 January, will be projected onto the outside of No 10, it was announced.
A light show will illuminate buildings around Whitehall, Union flags will be flown in Parliament Square and the delayed commemorative Brexit coin will finally come into circulation.

Some MPs are still fighting to have the bell heard, says the Express.

TORY MPs last night demanded a Commons vote on making Big Ben bong for Brexit after parliamentary officials admitted sounding the chime cost a fraction of their £500,000 estimate just weeks ago. Brexiteer backbenchers urged the Government to table a motion next week calling for Westminster’s Great Bell to sound as the UK quits the EU at 11pm on January 31.
They made their appeal after the House of Commons Commission revealed that reactivating temporarily Big Ben, currently silenced by refurbishment work, cost taxpayers just £14,200.

There could be a clock face on Downing Street, says the Guardian.

Boris Johnson has announced plans to project a giant clock face on to Downing Street on the evening of 31 January, in a bid to move on after a backlash over his failure to get Big Ben to bong for Brexit.
Diehard Brexiters, including Conservative MP Mark Francois and Brexit party MEP Richard Tice, had reacted furiously to news that Big Ben would not ring out to mark the UK officially quitting the EU at the end of this month.
Francois said earlier in the week that it was “inconceivable” that “the most iconic timepiece on Earth, which is Big Ben”, should not be used to mark Brexit.

The Mail says he hopes the light show will ‘defuse’ the row.

Boris Johnson has unveiled plans for a light show in Downing Street on Brexit night.
This comes as he has attempted to defuse a row over his failure to get Big Ben to sound that evening.
The Prime Minister will address the nation from inside No 10 as a clock counting down to the moment Britain leaves the EU at 11pm on January 31 is projected on to the outside.

The Sun also reports the light show.

BORIS Johnson will stage a laser show in Downing Street to mark leaving the EU as he battles Nigel Farage for the best party.
The PM will also light up Whitehall and deliver a special televised address to the nation to celebrate the historic day.
The Government has unveiled its plans after the parliamentary authorities blocked his bid to get Big Ben to bong Britain out of Brussels.
Unveiling his own celebrations, Boris  has ordered that Union Jacks hang from every flagpole around London’s iconic Parliament Square.

And Union flags will fly, reports the Express.

BORIS JOHNSON is to celebrate Brexit with Union flags, a commemorative coin and a massive projected countdown clock on the facade of 10 Downing Street, the Government announced last night. The Prime Minister will also directly address the nation on the need to “heal the divisions” left by the 2016 EU referendum campaign on the night of the UK’s departure from the bloc.
And the final hour before the country’s formal exit at 11pm on January 31 will be counted down second-by-second on a massive digital clock projected onto the facade of 10 Downing Street.

The Mirror also reports flags will be flown.

Union flags will be flown from all the flag poles in Parliament Square on January 31 to mark Brexit day.
But a bid for Big Ben to bong at the moment Britain leaves the EU seemed doomed, despite raising more than £250,000 towards the cost.
But in a bid to ease Brexiteers’ disappointment, Boris Johnson announced plans for flags to be flown in Westminster, along with a light show on Downing Street.

The Brexit Party leader opines on the Big Ben fiasco in the Evening Standard.

Nigel Farage has accused the Government of being “embarrassed” by Brexit over its failure to back the bid for Big Ben to chime on January 31.
As the ding-dong over the bongs descended into farce, Mr Farage claimed Boris Johnson “misled” the public when he suggested people could “bung a bob” to support the campaign.
More than £160,000 has been donated by more than 10,000 people  since the StandUp4Brexit fundraiser was launched on the GoFundMe crowdfunding website on Wednesday.
The Prime Minister said on Tuesday that the Government was “working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong”  after Commons authorities ruled out the proposal because it could cost £500,000.

International trade

Trade talks will start soon after Brexit Day, says the Telegraph.

Boris Johnson is expected to formally open trade talks with the US before he begins discussions with the European Union, the Telegraph has learned.
US diplomats believe the Prime Minister is poised to seek Cabinet authorisation to open trade talks directly with America on a visit to Washington next month.
British civil servants have drawn up advice for ministers on the “pros and cons” of starting trade talks with America before beginning them with the European Union, the Telegraph understands.

The Sun also has the report.

BORIS Johnson is expected to formally open trade talks with the US before he begins discussions with the EU.
The PM wants Cabinet authorisation to open discussions during a visit to Washington next month, US diplomats have revealed.
It comes after civil servants drew up advice for ministers on the pros and cons of making the move.
One government source who has seen the advice said: “We mean business and we’re not messing around. The political signal would be, ‘We’ve got the capacity to do this at the same time, don’t hold this up’.”

EU

The bloc is still being bloody-minded, reports BBC News.

The chancellor has warned manufacturers that “there will not be alignment” with the EU after Brexit and insists firms must “adjust” to new regulations.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Sajid Javid admitted not all businesses would benefit from Brexit.
Last year, the automotive, food and drink and pharmaceutical sectors warned the government that no longer aligning with key EU rules would be damaging.

And the Evening Standard reports that if the UK doesn’t sign up to EU rules, a trade deal would be difficult.

EU Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt said a post-Brexit free trade deal will be “very difficult” to attain if Britain does not sign up to the bloc’s rules on standards.
Mr Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said such an outcome will depend on Britain’s willingness to comply with standards followed by member states.
“I think both sides have an interest to be very ambitious. But how far this will go is very difficult to say because it will depend on what the willingness is of the UK side to also comply with a number of standards in the European Union,” he told BBC Radio 4 Today.

He also said he thinks we will rejoin the EU, reports the Independent.

Britain will rejoin the EU in the “coming decades” because young voters will realise leaving the bloc was a mistake, according to the European parliament’s chief Brexit coordinator.
With just 14 days to go until the UK legally severs its ties with the EU, Guy Verhofstadt also insisted he had received assurances from the Brexit secretary regarding anxieties about citizens’ rights.
After British MEPs packed up their offices in Strasbourg for the last time on Thursday, the former Belgian prime minister raised the prospect of the UK rejoining the bloc due to the demands of younger generations.

Sky News also reports Verhofstadt’s comment.

Britain will one day rejoin the European Union, one of the bloc’s senior figures has predicted.
Guy Verhofstadt, chairman of the EU’s Brexit Steering Group, said he agreed with the assessment of a British MEP that Brexit will be reversed.
Labour’s Seb Dance argued the UK was taking a “sabbatical” from the bloc and would be back in the future.
Mr Verhofstadt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think that will happen, yes, (but) it’s difficult to say when.
“There will be a generation, the young generation coming in the coming decades, who will say later, ‘We want to go back’.

He was criticised in the Express.

Brexiteers slammed Brussels negotiator Guy Verhofstadt after he claimed Britain will be forced to accept swathes EU red tape and will then rejoin the bloc. Young voters will demand “we want to go back” and “it will happen”, the European Parliament’s coordinator in the exit negotiations said.
Mr Verhofstadt, a Belgian MEP who is fiercely opposed to Brexit, said it would be very difficult for the UK to secure a broad free trade agreement unless it signs up to honouring EU rules on standards. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ruled out following stipulations set by Brussels after the transition period is over at the end of 2020.

A German minister has suggested we should have special status, reports the Guardian.

The European Union should offer Britain “privileged third-party status” in defence and foreign policy cooperation after Brexit, the German defence minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has said in a speech in London.
She said that such status should include access to projects such as Future Combat Air System, the Franco-German stealth jet programme.
Her remarks – following a meeting in London with the UK defence minister, Ben Wallace – underline how determined the major European powers are to ensure that they do not lose the UK’s defence assets after Brexit.
“I am convinced the UK has to be a privileged third party in our German and EU cooperation as a third party,” she told an audience at the London School of Economics.

And the Sun reports a Brexit MEP has nicked the Union flag.

A BREXIT Party MEP has risked euro chiefs’ fury by pinching the European Parliament’s Union Jack as his final act in Strasbourg.
Martin Daubney “liberated” the national flag as Britain’s representatives left the parliament for the final time on Thursday, ahead of Brexit in two weeks time.
It had hung alongside the 27 other members states’ colours in the building’s entrance.
Revealing the act to The Sun, Mr Daubney, 49, said he was retaliating over a ban imposed by euro chiefs on miniature flags on members’ desks in the chamber.

The Express reports on the prospective hole in the bloc’s budget.

BRITAIN’S departure from the European Union at the end of the month is going to leave a big hole in the EU’s budget, and as Brussels prepares to thrash out a new one, a French minister has warned nations they will have to pay more.
Brexit has been the overriding topic of debate among the EU for the past two years, and many nations, particularly the French, are keen to put the matter behind them so that the EU can move on. But before that can happen, the EU27 will need to agree their next long-term EU budget, which won’t be an easy task as many EU states are reluctant to foot the bill.

Scotland

The European flag must be flown north of the border, Scots have demanded, reports the Express.

THE SNP has demanded the European Union flag remains flying at the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, after Brexit, with the ruling party raging: “We never voted to leave!”
Scotland’s Brexit Secretary Mike Russell said Holyrood chiefs would be “wrong” to lower the flag when the UK leaves the EU on January 31. Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament Ken Macintosh wrote to all MSPs on Thursday to inform them of the decision taken by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB). The body agreed the flag should be removed at 11pm in two weeks’ time on January 31.

Labour leadership

A frontrunner is pulling away reports the Times

Sir Keir Starmer has increased his lead in the race for the Labour leadership, according to a poll of the party’s members.
The latest YouGov survey for The Times indicates that the shadow Brexit secretary would beat his closest rival, Rebecca Long Bailey, in the final round by 63 per cent to 37 per cent if the contest were concluded today.
A poll conducted last month had Sir Keir beating Ms Long Bailey by 61 per cent to 39 per cent once other candidates had been eliminated, indicating that the left’s candidate is losing ground in the early stages of the race.

Terrorism

Ostensibly peaceful groups have been labelled terrorists, says the Mail.

Non-violent groups including Greenpeace and Peta have been listed on a counter-terrorism document that was handed out to schools and hospitals as part of anti-extremism training.
The groups that support animal rights and the environment were listed in the same document as neo-Nazi and far-right groups, that was produced by government group Action Counters Terrorism.
The guide is used across the UK and is aimed at tackling those who could be at risk of committing terrorist offences.

Health

The government’s A&E target could be scrapped says the Times.

The A&E target that the government is considering scrapping saves 15,000 lives a year, researchers claim.
They warned ministers to be wary of changing a four-hour standard that has shortened waits and prevents people dying early, while acknowledging that it leads to more patients being admitted to a hospital bed.
This week Matt Hancock, the health secretary, gave the clearest indication yet that he would back NHS England in changing the target that 95 per cent of patients should be admitted or discharged within four hours of arriving in A&E.

Child grooming

Police turned a blind eye to child abuse, reports the Times.

A senior police officer admitted that his force ignored the sexual abuse of girls by Pakistani grooming gangs for decades because it was afraid of increasing “racial tensions”, a watchdog has ruled.
After a five-year investigation, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) upheld a complaint that the Rotherham officer told a missing child’s distraught father that the town “would erupt” if it was known that Asian men were routinely having sex with under-age white girls.
The chief inspector is said to have described the abuse as “P*** shagging” and to have said it had been “going on” for 30 years: “With it being Asians, we can’t afford for this to be coming out.”

But the government has recognised the problem, reports Sky News.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has said the government is taking the rise of child sexual exploitation (CSE) material online seriously but refused to allow concerned MPs a debate in the House of Commons.
His statement was made after the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) warned of an “epidemic” of child abuse images on the open web, according to reports the charity received last year.

Rail travel

The question of HS2 will end up in the High Court next week, says the Times.

Four of Europe’s leading train companies will be in the High Court on Monday to accuse the government of acting unlawfully in the tender process to run HS2  and other rail franchises.
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin TrainsStagecoach, which used to be Britain’s biggest train operator, SNCF, the French state railway, and Arriva, the British division of Deutsche Bahn, claim that the Department for Transport acted unlawfully by disqualifying them from winning franchises in a row over pension liabilities.

Air travel

The RAF forced the closure of Heathrow for half an hour, says the Mail.

Angry passengers are demanding to know why they were left stranded for several hours after the RAF demanded air traffic controllers shut down Heathrow’s airspace for around 30 minutes.
The RAF told civilian controllers they needed an ‘unplanned’ use of airspace, which forced several aircraft to divert and forced others to circle until Heathrow reopened.
The military emergency concerned nearby RAF Northolt, which is home to the Royal Flight as well as some electronic surveillance aircraft.

Huawei

The row over the Chinese tech company continues in the Times.

British mobile phone companies have already used  5G technology from Huawei in 70 UK towns and cities and removing it would cost the economy billions of pounds, government sources have said.
Boris Johnson and the national security council will meet this month to decide whether to give the Chinese company the green light to help to build “non-core” parts of the network.

Post

Postal workers could be heading for a strike, says the Telegraph.

Royal Mail is facing the renewed threat of a first national postal strike in more than a decade after union leaders accused the company of declaring ­“industrial war” on its workers.
In a letter to union branches seen by The Daily Telegraph, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) said it will “begin preparations for another national ballot for industrial action, while supporting local ballot requests”, after talks with the company broke down over changes to working conditions.

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