EU

Top Europeans have been left gobsmacked at the Prime Minister’s latest attempt at solving the Brexit problem, says the Telegraph.

Theresa May has left European diplomats in a state of “disbelief” following a series of phone calls to EU leaders in which she made no change to her demands despite her Brexit plan being voted down by a 230-vote margin this week.
Senior EU diplomatic sources said that Mrs May’s unchanged stance was “greeted with incredulity” following a call with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday night.
“It was the same old story – the same set of demands – all unchanged despite the defeat,” said the source with knowledge of the calls.
Mrs May is understood to have repeated the same performance in conversations with the French president Emmanuel Macron, the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte.

And the Guardian reports a lot of work being done by EU embassies in London.

Phone lines and encrypted emails from EU embassies in London to their capitals have been red hot this week as diplomats seek to make sense of the chaos in the British parliament over Brexit.
Some diplomats admit their primary response has been sheer shock at the depth of the turmoil.
But they seem keener on helping Britain delay article 50, which has set the 29 March deadline, than is sometimes thought.

It seems businesses on the Continent are getting worried, reports the Mail.

German business chiefs have warned that a no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic for their country.
The nation’s supply chains and trade links are closely intertwined with Britain – sparking fears that its vital manufacturing sector will be badly damaged if the UK crashes out of the European Union without an agreement.
More than 750,000 jobs in Germany depend on its trade with the UK.

Fox News reports that Germans are urging the UK to cancel Brexit.

Amid the ongoing Brexit impasse among British lawmakers, a group of prominent Germans including the woman in line to take over for Angela Merkel as chancellor is urging Britain to stay in the European Union, saying they would miss milk with tea and post-work beers.
The open letter sent to The Times – signed by businessmen, politicians, and others – argues that “from the bottom of our hearts” Britain should not leave the political and economic bloc.

The PM will be holding more talks with her European counterparts, claims the Express.

THERESA May is holding urgent talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker this afternoon as her Brexit crisis deepens.
Mrs May is facing a Brexit deadlock after MPs overwhelmingly rejected her withdrawal agreement in a crunch vote on Tuesday. The Prime Minister called on the Commons to come together for cross-party talks to find a way forward following the humiliating defeat.

Brexit

Back home, Mrs May is trying to persuade her MPs to back her deal, says the Express.

THERESA May held face-to-face talks with a string of senior ministers yesterday as a fresh bout of squabbling over Brexit engulfed the Cabinet.
The Prime Minister summoned Michael Gove, Penny Mordaunt, David Lidington, Chris Grayling and others to Downing Street in her attempt to thrash out a new Brexit plan following the overwhelming Commons rejection of her Withdrawal Agreement earlier this week. But public barbs between ministers with rival visions of Britain’s European future threatened to overshadow her attempt to build a consensus.

And their disagreements have burst out into the open, says the Times.

Ministers have clashed openly today over the future direction of Brexit as talks continued in Downing Street.
Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, suggested that many voters would favour a clean no-deal break if it was a choice between that and staying in the European Union. She also warned that only when the EU believed “no deal is better than a bad deal” could the UK maximise its chance of a deal.
“Not honouring the result of the referendum would be appalling,” she said.

Senior Tory Andrea Jenkyns has written a column for Westmonster.

The United Kingdom deserves better and it was right that Parliament voted down the Prime Minister’s deal this week. This was a bad deal and not one which the House of Commons could accept.
Following this defeat there have been continued calls by some Remain MPs to delay or worse reverse the result of the referendum. This is very distressing and I understand readers concerns that what they were promised is under threat by narrow-minded and undemocratic Remainers who want to keep us in the European Union against the British people’s wishes. This cannot be allowed to happen.

No deal

But there are signs that the PM is being urged to rule out WTO rules, reports the Times.

A defence minister has become the first member of Theresa May’s government to break ranks and publicly urge her to delay Brexit if no deal can be reached.
As Whitehall stepped up preparations for a possible snap election, Tobias Ellwood argued that extending Article 50 would be preferable to Britain leaving the European Union on March 29 without a deal.
Leaving with no agreement would “be an act of self harm with profound economic, security and reputational, consequences for the UK at the very time threats are increasing and diversifying,” he told The Times.

And some ministers think they know better than we the voters, reports the Telegraph.

Ministers trying to block a no deal Brexit wrongly “think they know better” than voters, Andrea Leadsom has said as the issue prompted a public split among the Cabinet.
Ms Leadsom, the Leader of the Commons, told The Telegraph that colleagues who want to stop no deal will “fail our country” and weaken the UK’s negotiating hand.

Of course, Labour’s Brexit secretary has weighed in with his comments, reported by the Independent.

Theresa May will fail if she tries to force her Brexit deal through parliament a second time, Labour‘s shadow Brexit secretary will warn today.
Sir Keir Starmer will use a speech in central London to tell the prime minister her proposed agreement has “no chance” of being passed by parliament.
Instead, he will call for MPs to have an “open and frank debate” about how to break the deadlock gripping the Commons.

But it seems there’s a plot to hand the question over to a Remain-majority committee of backbench MPs, reports the Mail.

Ministers in Theresa May‘s Government are prepared to defy her and to vote for a backbench plan to give MPs power to block a no-deal Brexit, a Tory MP has warned.
Nick Boles told the BBC that some non-Cabinet ministers had told him directly they would quit if whipped against a bill allowing parliamentarians to demand Article 50 be extended for fresh talks with Brussels.
Speaking to the Radio 4 podcast Political Thinking the Grantham and Stamford MP also said members of his local Tory party in Lincolnshire may try to deselect him.

Trade

The International Trade Secretary hasn’t finalised all the necessary deals yet, reports BBC News.

The UK has yet to finalise agreements to replace existing free trade deals the EU has with 40 big economies if there is a no-deal Brexit.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said he “hoped” they would but it depended on whether other countries were “willing to put the work in”.
He said more deals were coming, after signing one with Australia.

But economist Ruth Lea, who has written for Conservative Woman, says we shouldn’t worry about WTO rules.

AS BREXIT day approaches (we hope) the debate on the pros and cons of a No Deal WTO Brexit seems to grow ever more shrill. Project Fear Mark 2, the direct descendant of the wholly discredited pre-referendum Project Fear Mark 1, has been ramped up, to scare us all.
Doubtless, there would be some disruption in the event of a WTO Brexit as businesses adapt to the new set of circumstances. But businesses are good at adapting, otherwise they do not survive. And I would expect such disruption to have broadly dissipated within six months. Moreover, we know that both the British civil service and the European Commission are stepping up their No Deal preparations, as they are more than aware that such an outcome is quite possible. The scaremongering is not just absurd, it is highly irresponsible.

Nigel

Our former leader is still considering a return to front-line politics, says the Mail.

Nigel Farage has today revealed he will launch a new political party if Brexit is delayed.
The former Ukip leader accused Remainer MPs of plotting to try to overturn the result of the EU referendum.
He said he expects Article 50, which starts the two-year clock on Brexit, to be extended – meaning the UK will not leave the EU as planned on March 29.
Mr Farage said he will make a dramatic come back to frontline politics with a new party with could run in EU elections this May if Brexit is delayed.

And BBC News reports his claim he will run in the European elections if we’re not out by then.

Nigel Farage says he is ready to fight the European elections in May if Brexit is delayed.
The former UKIP leader, who quit his party in December, said he was seeking “the right political vehicle”.
As things stand, the European Parliament is axing most of the UK’s seats, with a small number to be re-allocated to other countries.
The UK can delay Brexit without holding European elections, EU officials have told the Financial Times.

But could he run as a Tory?  Westmonster speculates.

There was a very interesting discussion on the airwaves this morning between pro-Brexit Tory MP Shailesh Vara and a currently partyless Nigel Farage, with Sky’s Adam Boulton suggesting Nigel could join the Tories.
Labour will not like the prospect of that at all. A united Brexiteer front would spell big trouble for Jeremy Corbyn’s party and Nigel can undoubtedly reach voters few others can.
Vara, who quit as Northern Ireland Minister to oppose Theresa May’s EU deal, said that he agreed “with much of what Nigel said” on Brexit: “It was made actually clear, as Nigel says, by all the leaders of the referendum campaign that this was a one-off and the result would be binding.”
When pressed if Nigel would fit into the Conservative Party, Vara responded by saying: “I’m happy to put Nigel in the right direction, he’s a seasoned politician and if he fulfils our criteria we’d be happy to have him on board.”

Yahoo News reports his suggestion that there might be a second referendum.

Nigel Farage has urged Leave campaigners to prepare for a second referendum as the Brexit deadlock continues.
The former Ukip leader spoke at a packed Leave Means Leave rally in London, telling Brexiteers they must “face reality in the face”.
The MEP spoke alongside former Conservative leader Iain Duncan-Smith, MP Esther McVey and Hotelier Rocco Forte.

Boris

Breitbart reports Boris’ call for a better Brexit deal.

Former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson has urged Prime Minister Theresa May to use her crushing parliamentary defeat as leverage to get a better Brexit deal from European Union leaders.
Johnson said Friday that May would be able to persuade EU leaders to substantially modify the withdrawal plan if she shows enough “gumption” in crisis EU talks.
He says the scope of her historic defeat in Parliament means EU leaders will know they have to make concessions in order to come up with an agreement that would win parliamentary approval.

General Election

Some say we’re just about to go for a new GE, sys the Express.

CIVIL servants have been warned to get ready for a snap poll to break the Brexit deadlock.
They have been advised to draw up contingency plans for the poll in case an election is needed. The meetings have been taking place amid concerns the fraught situation in Westminster regarding Brexit will lead to chaos. It was also reported official guidance has been drawn up on a possible timeline for a second referendum.

Westmonster echoes the possibilities.

General Election could be about to take place.
Three Cabinet Ministers and a further six junior Ministers have instructed their local Associations to prepare for a snap election, according to the New Statesman.
They report that four of them have named 28th February as a possible date. This could move fast.
This coincides with a separate report in the Daily Mail, that the civil service have been told to get ready and draw up plans for a sudden election. Both reports came within hours of each other, is something up?
The government are denying of course. For now.

The Mail says warnings have gone out.

Three Cabinet ministers have warned their local activists to prepare for an election, it was claimed today despite Theresa May ruling out a snap poll.
A further six junior ministers have alerted their constituency associations to the risk of a new general election as Westminster is deadlocked by Brexit.
Mrs May has insisted she will not call an election for fear of causing even more chaos if the result is indecisive.

The Sun claims it’s inevitable.

ANOTHER General Election is “inevitable” Cabinet Ministers warned – amid rumours a poll is earmarked for February 28.
One Tory told The Sun they believed Theresa May would have to go back to the nation as she was “running out of road”.
They claimed an updated version of her Brexit deal would form the core of the Election manifesto – with voters told to choose between this or two more years of EU negotiations under Jeremy Corbyn.

HS2

The high-speed rail line is in further trouble, reports the Times.

The HS2 high-speed rail project is facing a £500 million lawsuit over allegations that it undervalued central London property that was compulsorily purchased to make way for the line.
Sydney & London Properties, which was forced to sell four office buildings and land in front of HS2’s terminal at Euston station, said the government-controlled company failed to take into account the area’s redevelopment potential when purchasing the land.
HS2 said the land was worth £200 million but Sydney & London believes it was worth at least £700 million, the Financial Times reported.

Human rights

The Independent reports that the government could axe the Human Rights Act.

Theresa May will consider axeing the Human Rights Act  after Brexit, despite promising she is “committed” to its protections, a minister has revealed.
The government will decide on the future of the landmark legislation once “the process of leaving the EU concludes”, a letter to a parliamentary inquiry says.
The wording was described as “troubling” by the Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee, which warned the letter casts doubt on repeated pledges to protect the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Islam

It could be that islamists have targeted the scout movement, reports the Telegraph.

A scout group run from a mosque is being investigated by police after a Telegraph investigation linked it to an Islamic extremist and a man associated with Holocaust denial.
The Scout Association raised the alarm after the Telegraph found the Lewisham Islamic Centre had been segregating groups by gender, despite the Scout’s own commitment to mixed-sex groups.
The investigation also found girls as young as five in the group have been encouraged to record videos advocating wearing the hijab and that contrary to the Scouts own commitment to ‘British Values’, the group’s leader Ahammed Hussain has admitted to encouraging the members to be ‘Muslims first’.

The Times has picked up the story.

A scout group for 10 to 14-year-olds run from a mosque is being investigated by police after it was linked to Islamic extremism and Holocaust denial.
The Scout Association found that the Lewisham Islamic Centre segregated boys and girls, breaking the Scouts’ commitment to mixed sex groups.
Ahammed Hussain, the group’s leader, allegedly encouraged the children to be “Muslims first”, The Daily Telegraph reported. It also claimed that girls as young as five had been encouraged to record videos encouraging Muslim women to wear the hijab.

NHS

GPs are having to work harder these days, says the Times.

The average GP is responsible for almost 200 more patients than a decade ago, with staff shortages and longer waiting times creating a “perfect storm”, doctors’ leaders say.
The number of patients over 65 is increasing at twice the rate of patients as a whole, and surgeries in some parts of the country are twice as crowded as better staffed areas.
The resulting overwork is driving GPs out of the NHS, increasing shortages that could scupper the health service’s £20 billion ten-year plan.

Rail travel

Looks like we could be in for more rail strikes, says the Mail.

Unions heaped yet more misery on rail passengers yesterday by ordering a fresh wave of industrial action – extending their disruption of services to the 49th strike in a row.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) working on Northern Rail routes across England had already planned to down tools tomorrow and next Saturday, as part of their long-running dispute over driver-only trains.
Yesterday they announced further 24-hour strikes to be held on the first three Saturdays of February – adding the 47th, 48th and 49th days.

Fake news

Facebook faces accusations in the Telegraph.

Facebook has been accused of “pumping out fake news” after running political adverts claiming endangered animals were being threatened – by Brexit.
The social media giant has been paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by Britain’s two most prominent Remain campaign groups to stir up support for a second referendum.

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