Art50 delay

Those worried about a short delay becoming a long delay are reassured in the Independent.

Brexit delay of longer than two months could be illegal unless the UK elects new MEPs, lawyers are warning, appearing to torpedo Theresa May’s strategy.
Article 50 cannot be extended beyond the end of May unless the UK takes part in fresh European parliament elections, according to a legal opinion issued by the German Bundestag.
The conclusion came amid fresh evidence that the exit talks remain in trouble, with a lack of progress that might persuade MPs to approve the prime minister’s deal.
The controversy over European elections is crucial because Ms May told MPs a delay to June would be possible without a U-turn on withdrawing MEPs – if parliament forces her to abandon the 29 March deadline.

And Reuters reports that any delay could face a legal challenge.

Britain could face an EU legal challenge if it seeks to delay Brexit because of the impact on EU legislative elections, a legal opinion produced for Germany’s Bundestag said, potentially making it difficult for Berlin to back anything but a short extension.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that if Britain needed more time to sort out its departure from the European Union, she would not refuse.

A former Brexit secretary – there have been a few – has warned that any delay would weaken our negotiating position, reports Breitbart.

Dominic Raab has warned that any suggestion of delaying Brexit “weakens” London’s negotiating powers in Brussels, but that to accept Prime Minister Theresa May’s soft-Brexit withdrawal agreement would risk a “democratic cliff edge” in the UK.
The former Brexit secretary made the comments following the resignation of former farming minister George Eustice on Thursday. The Brexiteer quit in response to the prime minister opening up the possibility taking ‘no deal’ off the table or extending Article 50, which Mr Eustice said in his resignation letter “will lead to a sequence of events culminating in the EU dictating the terms of any extension requested and the final humiliation of our country.”

Brexit

In other Brexit news, the Independent reports a charge for joining a march – then goes on to list what else you get for your cash.

Leave supporters who want to join Nigel Farage’s march against Theresa May’s Brexit approach are being charged £50.
“Core marchers” – those who walk for two or more days – will have to make the one-off payment, which covers accommodation, dinner and breakfast.
Other supporters can join the event for free as cheerleaders but would have to fund their own accommodation if away from home overnight.
The £50 also pays for an official kit, including a coat, beanie hat, gloves, T-shirt and water bottle.
Former Ukip leader Mr Farage will lead the activists marching from Sunderland to London from 16 to 29 March.

No deal

The Telegraph reports the UK will adhere to EU rules even if we don’t get a deal.
Britain will unilaterally agree to follow all EU foods safety and animal health regulations for a period of a least nine months in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit in order to protect British farming, the Telegraph can reveal.
Senior Whitehall sources said that The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had won cabinet committee clearance for the plan last week.
The move sends a clear signal of the UK’s determination to remain aligned with European, not US agricultural and food standards after Brexit.

The Express has picked up the story.

BRITAIN will be forced to follow EU food and farming regulations for nine months after Brexit, should Theresa May fail to secure a deal with the bloc.
Senior Whitehall sources told the Daily Telegraph the UK will unilaterally agree to follow the regulations in order to protect British farming in the event of a no-deal scenario. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) cleared the plan last week after winning Cabinet approval.

But will ‘no deal’ ever materialise?  The Independent claims there’ll be a fight for it.

Ministers are “up for the fight” to prevent the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal, a senior Tory has warned the prime minister, saying a disorderly exit is “not something we can contemplate”.
Tobias Ellwood, the defence minister, said he would fight to prevent a no-deal Brexit taking place – either on 29 March or after an extension.

The minister has reiterated the rejection of ‘no deal’, reports Sky News.

The UK will not be allowed to leave the EU without a deal at any point, Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood has suggested.
He told the Political Thinking podcast he and like-minded colleagues will stop a no-deal exit “whenever” – even if Brexit is delayed until the summer.
MPs will get the opportunity to vote on a no-deal exit if Parliament rejects Theresa May’s deal again next month.

EU

Continental bosses are fed up with us, says Reuters.

Britain has just four weeks left as a member of the European Union. Or maybe not. Staying weeks, months, even years longer is the talk of London; but such ideas are getting a frosty hearing on the continent.
When Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission, confessed this week to “a certain Brexit fatigue” and his negotiator Michel Barnier said what Britain needs is not time but decisions, they were reflecting a broad impatience that means Britain will struggle to get more than a short delay.

The Guardian reports the EU will not agree to make the backstop temporary.

Michel Barnier has told EU ambassadors that he is having to repeatedly rebut British demands for a time limit on the Irish backstop but that he is working on a legal add-on to the Brexit deal to help the prime minister.
During a meeting on Friday in Brussels, the EU’s chief negotiator expressed frustration with the British demands after the latest round of talks. “The UK side keeps on insisting on the same two things,” one EU diplomat said following Barnier’s briefing after the latest week of talks. “And we keep on explaining why it won’t happen.”

But ITV News claims the EU is ready to concede further.

Brussels is ready to give the UK further “guarantees, assurances and clarifications” that the Irish backstop should only be temporary, Michel Barnier has said.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator insisted that the controversial measure, intended to avoid a hard border on Ireland, will not be removed from the Withdrawal Agreement.
While acknowledging Brexiteer concerns that the backstop is a trap that would keep the UK tied to the EU indefinitely, Mr Barnier insisted it is only “insurance” intended for the “worst-case scenario”.

Meanwhile other European countries are revolting, reports the Express.

THE EUROPEAN Commission is facing an unprecedented and “overwhelming” revolt among EU member states after 27 countries turned on a Brussels plan to blacklist two dozen countries accused of lax terrorism financing rules and facilitating money-laundering.
Led by Britain and France, 25 other EU nations are objecting to the blacklist of countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and North Korea, in one of the biggest rejections of European Commission policy in the bloc’s history.

Conservative Party

Transport secretary Grayling is in trouble, reports the Times.

The transport secretary faced calls to resign yesterday after his department paid £33 million to settle a legal action over no-deal Brexit preparations.
Chris Grayling was condemned as incompetent after the payout to Eurotunnel, which was in the process of suing the government over the award of ferry contracts.
The Channel tunnel operator had been angry at the decision to hand the contracts worth £103 million to three of its competitors without a comprehensive tendering exercise. One of the contracts was awarded to Seaborne Freight to provide additional ferries into Ramsgate, Kent, even though it did not own any vessels and had no agreement with the port.

Labour Party

Could yet another new party emerge?  The Telegraph reports:

Tom Watson, the Labour deputy leader, is poised to change the face of politics by pulling together 50 or more disaffected colleagues to create the third biggest group in the Commons.
If it works, the move would dwarf the Independent Group, launched last week and cement Mr Watson’s reputation as a fixer, influencer and Labour power broker.
More important, it would nudge the centre of gravity in Her Majesty’s Opposition a bit further away from the socialist purism of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell and a bit closer towards the social democratic and Christian democratic tradition that dominated for 30 years under the stewardship of leaders from Neil Kinnock to Ed Miliband.

The Sun reports that many voters could jump ship.

JEREMY Corbyn is facing a fresh threat to the Labour party after it was revealed that a THIRD of his own voters could switch over to the new Independent Group.
And almost a quarter of all voters said they could be tempted away from their current parties to back the splitters group.
According to new polling, the 11 MPs who broke away from Labour and the Tories last week are seen as credible candidates.

And the Express reports that most of his ‘top team’ are going against the wishes of their voters.

LABOUR’s Brexit betrayal was laid bare today after analysis showed two thirds of Jeremy Corbyn’s top team are defying their constituents to sabotage Britain’s departure from the EU.
The party revealed it plans to hijack the next decisive vote Theresa May holds on her exit deal to secure a second referendum. But the move goes against the clear instruction of voters that the UK must quit the bloc in 18 areas represented by members of the shadow cabinet.

DUP

Looks like the Northern Irish party could be ready to capitulate, says the Mail.

The Democratic Unionist Party could be prepared to back a compromise that allows Theresa May to pass a Brexit deal.
The Northern Irish party is said to have told allies that it could back a revised deal in the face of efforts by MPs to delay Britain’s departure and block no-deal.
Arlene Foster’s party, which has 10 MPs at Westminster, is ‘looking for a ladder to climb down’, sources told the Times.

And the DUP boss says there’s no need for a hard border, reports the Express.

ARLENE Foster has insisted there is “no need” for customs checkpoints between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit as she accused Dublin of “policing its own hard border” by seizing two UK-registered fishing boats.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader condemned Dublin’s actions after the vessels were impounded by an Irish Navy patrol ship while in disputed waters.

But it seems the Attorney General is still seeking legal assurances from the EU, says the Telegraph.

It was a star speech with a Shakespearean flourish that was worthy of the political equivalent of an Oscar.
When Sir Geoffrey Cox took to the stage as Theresa May’s warm-up act at last year’s Conservative party conference, a star was born.
Now the Attorney General is acting as the Prime Minister’s stunt man in an attempt wrestle legally binding changes to the Irish backstop from the vice-like grip of EU negotiators.

The Independent Group

There could be Tory desertions, says the Express.

SEVERAL ministers are considering joining the new Remainer breakaway group of Independent Group of MPs, it emerged yesterday.
They are said to be weighing up the “attractiveness” of the newly formed political entity following the defection eight Labour and three Tory MPs last week. The group, which has plans to become a fully-fledged political party soon, is hopeful that ministers could jump ship soon. A senior TIG source said: “The notion of there being a new party and its attractiveness is something I have spoken to with sitting ministers over the last 12 months.”

And the Telegraph reports one of them could be a senior minister.

A senior Government minister has approached The Independent Group of MPs, it has emerged, as three more Conservative MPs face no confidence votes by their local parties which could end their political careers.
The unnamed Minister of State wrote a letter to a senior member of the group saying they “agreed with everything you have done” opening the possibility of a hugely damaging defection away from the Conservative party.
The fact that a serving minister wrote to the group demonstrates the level of trust with its key figures – and the disaffection felt by senior members of the Government over its Brexit policy.

Immigration

The High Court has thrown out part of the government’s immigration policy, reports the Morning Star.

CORE part of PM Theresa May’s hostile environment immigration policy was demolished by a High Court judge today, who ruled that it promotes racism.
Mr Justice Spencer found the government is breaching human rights law by demanding that landlords in England check the immigration status of their tenants.
He also passed an order halting the roll-out of the scheme to the rest of Britain, warning that it is an unlawful policy that must be repealed immediately.

Westmonster also reports.

The government’s ‘Right to Rent’ scheme breaches law under the European Convention on Human Rights, the High Court has ruled. Once again the British government are being overruled on policy.
Right to Rent made landlords responsible for checking the immigration status of potential tenants if they have “reasonable cause to believe” the letting is occupied by someone who doesn’t have the right to rent in Britain.

Meanwhile, ITV News reports from the Jungle in Calais.

In recent weeks ITV News has gone undercover in the makeshift camps holding hundreds of people near Calais. There our team found traffickers offering passage to Britain in return for thousands of euros.
As Brexit approaches, many of those seeking passage to the UK fear it will be tougher to get to Britain, making them even more desperate to make the perilous passage.
There are between 1,000 and 1,500 refugees and migrants camped out in northern France, around 600 of who are in Calais.

Bloody Sunday

The Telegraph claims an exclusive report on charges resulting in the events of that terrible day.

Army veterans are expected to be charged with murder within a fortnight over the deaths of Bloody Sunday protesters during the Troubles 47 years ago, The Telegraph understands.
Well-placed sources have suggested that four ex-paratroopers, now in their 60s and 70s, fear being told on March 14 they will face murder charges in connection with the notorious shootings in Londonderry in 1972.

The Mail has picked up the story.

Army veterans involved in Bloody Sunday could be charged with murder within days.
Seventeen ex-soldiers, the oldest of whom is 77, remain under investigation over the shootings in Londonderry 47 years ago.
Prosecutors in Northern Ireland are to meet families of the victims on March 14 before announcing whether the former paratroopers will stand trial. They face charges ranging from perjury to murder.
‘There are four soldiers most at risk of being charged with murder,’ a source told the Daily Telegraph. ‘I fear prosecutors will throw the book at everybody and see what sticks … it seems a complete waste of money to pursue troops almost 50 years on.’

Armed forces

Elsewhere in the armed forces, the Times reports that recruiting standards may be too high.

Army applicants with acne and low-level allergies are being rejected, prompting accusations that recruiting agencies are misinterpreting medical guidelines.
Capita, the services company contracted to carry out medicals for armed forces applicants, must follow rules set by the Ministry of Defence. More than 14,000 applicants were rejected on medical grounds in 2016-17, prompting concerns that healthy people were being deemed medically unfit to serve.

BBC

The Mirror claims an exclusive report on demands from our national broadcaster.

BBC BOSSES are demanding a near £350 million taxpayer ‘bailout’ for the World Service, the Sun can reveal.
The ‘Beeb’ wants the Foreign Office to pick up the entire tab for funding the famous operation.
Currently more than three-quarters comes from the licence fee.
Any change would see the Government grant for the World Service more than triple from £86 million a year to £340 million.

Social media

Internet cyberbullying and self-harm could be clamped down on, says the Telegraph.

Social media firms face huge fines if they fail to keep children safe online under a new legally enforced code that will be enacted as early as this autumn.
In what campaigners say will be a sea change in online safety, the tech giants will be required by law to enforce their terms and conditions to protect children from harmful content such as cyberbullying, self-harm, sexual content and abuse – and prevent under-age children from joining their sites.
Companies such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat will be expected to ensure that only children aged 13 and over are on their platforms and that the content is appropriate for their age.

The Times reports an attack on social media.

The head of the NHS has attacked “irresponsible” social media companies for allowing vaccine-deniers to spread misinformation to parents.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said he was very concerned about the rise of “fake news” on vaccinations, which he blamed for causing a surge in measles last year.
Parents from his daughter’s primary school were spreading anti-vaccine messages on WhatsApp and the NHS had to do more to win the public argument, he said.

HS2

Would you believe it?  The cash-strapped HS2 project has spent thousands on extras, says the Times.

HS2 Ltd has been accused of wasting “eye-watering” sums of taxpayers’ money as it emerged that the government-owned company spent almost £54,000 on gym memberships and £6,360 hiring party photo booths.
The spending by the company building the high-speed rail line was revealed in official financial returns. Analysis showed that £640,000 was spent on aerial promotional films and £96,712 went on an HS2 “pop-up shop” at Euston station.

Scarlet fever

There’s a rise in the numbers of this potentially dangerous disease, says the Sun.

EVERY parent needs to know the signs of dangerous scarlet fever, experts warn.
The disease, which used to kill large thousands back in the 19th century, is on the rise – particularly among kids.
It’s a seasonal illness that’s most common around this time of year.
The latest report by Public Health England (PHE) showed that 6,316 cases of scarlet fever have been reported since mid-September 2018, with 409 cases reported last week.
It’s usually quite a mild illness that can be easily treated with antibiotics but is incredibly contagious.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email