Brexit

Northern Ireland is still a sticking point in the negotiations says the Telegraph.

Britain risks a “disorderly” Brexit after the EU comprehensively rejected proposals for avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland, Michel Barnier has warned.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said that there is still no agreement on 25 per cent of Brexit negotiations, meaning there is a “risk of failure”.
It comes after The Telegraph disclosed that Theresa May’s plan for avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland was subjected to a “forensic annihilation” at a meeting between senior EU officials and Olly Robbins, the UK’s lead Brexit negotiator.

The Independent claims a solution is down to the British negotiators.

British Brexit negotiators have offered no new specific solution to the Northern Ireland border in the weeks of talks since last month’s Brussels summit, The Independent understands.
Brussels sources with knowledge of the discussions said the UK had proposed no changes to the text of the draft withdrawal agreement relating to the border in the latest round of talks.
Instead, the UK team suggested eliminating the need for hard border with Ireland with a “customs partnership” between the EU
and Britain that was immediately written off as a “non-starter” by European Commission officials. 

The Telegraph claims EU negotiators are delighted with the talks so far.

European officials seem rather pleased with how sharply they rejected their British counterparts’ proposals on how to avoid a hard border in  Northern Ireland, gloating to my colleague Peter Foster that they gave them a “systematic and forensic annihilation” this week.
At least Michel Barnier’s team have been able to find something to puff themselves up about, after the deflating experience they had last August when – as we reported – a “young man from Whitehall” tore apart their demands for as much as €100bn  in a divorce settlement. “There was total amazement,” an EU source lamented at the time.

The Express reports a call on the EU to be a bit more flexible.

A NEW impasse in Brexit talks saw the UK yesterday urge the EU to copy Britain’s “spirit of cooperation”. It came after claims Brussels officials had delivered a “detailed and forensic rebuttal” of all the UK’s proposals to keep the border open in Ireland.
The border issue has been a key sticking point in the Brexit talks.
There are fears that if Brussels refuses to budge the UK could be forced to choose between accepting the reinstatement of a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which it has insisted will not happen, or to stay in the EU customs union.

Reuters reports confidence of a good outcome.

Britain expressed confidence on Friday that no hard border with Ireland would return following Brexit, but European Union negotiators have dismissed a proposal by Britain on how to ensure goods would flow freely after it quits the EU.
At a negotiating session on Wednesday, Brussels officials and diplomats said the EU rejected proposals London first made last summer and introduced into the talks last month. That verdict reflected no change in the positions but put a more formal gloss on the impasse.
A British suggestion that it could form a “customs partnership” with the EU, collecting duties on behalf of the EU while pursuing its own tariff policy and refusing to be bound by EU courts and regulations, was dismissed last year in Brussels as impractical and a threat to the EU market.

The Mirror claims EU negotiators have ‘annihilated’ British plans.

The EU has reportedly “annihilated” Theresa May’s plans for the Irish border after Brexit in a major blow.
Brussels officials delivered “a detailed and forensic rebuttal” that made clear “none of the UK customs options will work – none of them”, a source told the Daily Telegraph.
According to the Telegraph, talks on future trade have now been put on hold while Theresa May’s Brexit ‘war cabinet’ meets weekly to resolve the deadlock.
It raises fresh doubts over how Northern Ireland can leave the EU customs union after Brexit along with the rest of the UK.

And the Guardian says all is not cut and dried yet.

The EU’s chief negotiator has warned there is still a “risk of failure” in the Brexit negotiations as Brussels continues to reject Britain’s proposals on avoiding a hard border in  Ireland.
Michel Barnier said on Friday that a quarter of the work needed to complete preparations for the UK to leave the EU next March remained to be done.
“In terms of what has been agreed so far, it’s about 75%,” he told France 2 television.
Even if Britain and the EU were working towards a British exit from the EU taking place in March 2019, this may not happen if outstanding topics such as Ireland were unresolved, he said.

And BBC News reports confidence as well.

No 10 says it is confident a deal can be done to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit despite signs of an impasse over the issue.
The BBC understands UK plans to resolve the matter faced sustained criticism from the EU at a meeting on Wednesday.
The UK wants to use technology to help goods flow freely and avoid regulatory alignment between the North and South.
Downing Street said it did not recognise reports it had been told none of its proposed ideas would work.
The EU wants to present an agreed solution on the issue to a summit meeting of European leaders in June.

Several of the media claim the Prime Minister could face a leadership challenge if she doesn’t get a good deal. The Times reports:

Brexiteers warned Theresa May that she could face a leadership challenge if she conceded that Britain should stay in a customs union with Europe.
Downing Street looks likely to duck a fight next week when the first of a series of votes is held. Julian Smith, the Tory chief whip, has declared Thursday’s vote on a non-binding motion a one-line whip, meaning that attendance is not compulsory for the party’s MPs.
Mrs May will have to overcome Brexit challenges 
on customs before the summer recess. There are warnings that MPs may start sending no-confidence letters to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench Conservative 1922 Committee. He must start a no confidence vote if he receives 48 letters.

The Mail also reports on Mrs May’s problem.

Theresa May could face a challenge to her leadership of the Conservative Party if she allowed Britain to remain in a customs union with the EU after Brexit, it is reported.
The PM has been warned that a concession to keep Britain in the 28-member customs union could prompt a series of no-confidence letters to be sent to a backbench chairman and trigger a leadership contest.
One backbench Tory MP told the website ConservativeHome: ‘If there’s a cave-in on the customs union, I think there will be a leadership challenge’. 

There’s good news on post-Brexit trade. Westmonster says:

For all the people living in some kind of hysterical Remoaner bubble, telling themselves that Britain’s on the brink of plummeting out of the EU’s safety net and into a deep void of bankruptcy and, presumably, chaos, just step back and have a look at the facts…
The next time somebody asks you: “Where are all those trade deals then?” show them this:
Aussie Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said: “We share big ambitions on what the UK and Australia can do on global trade. We would like to commence negotiations at the start of the interim period, with a view to concluding it during the interim period and have it come into force on the 1st January, 2021.”
But the country’s Foreign Minister admits that the trade deal couldn’t happen if Britain stayed in a Customs Union with the EU.

But the Sun reports a warning.

AUSTRALIA has warned Remainer MPs that staying in the EU customs union would kill an Oz trade deal.
It came as Singapore offered a rapid agreement with Britain to prevent a “hard stop” after Brexit.
Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop said her government also sees “enormous opportunities for more trade and investment”.
But she warned rebel  MPs in Westminster not to blow the chances when they
vote next week on whether to try to keep Britain shackled to Brussels tariff and customs rules.
She said  that would mean “the opportunity for us to enter a free trade agreement with the UK standing alone would not be achievable”.

The question of how much we’ll have to pay Brussels in the ‘divorce bill’ is considered by Sky News.

A senior MP has claimed the final figure for the Brexit divorce bill is “shrouded in uncertainty”, after a watchdog stressed the current estimate is based on a number of assumptions.
The Government has put forward £35-£39bn as the likely sum, an estimate the National Audit Office (NAO) has described as “reasonable”.
But the financial watchdog has warned “relatively small changes to some assumptions about future events” could see that sum rise further.

And Breitbart.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has warned that the so-called ‘divorce bill’ the government has promised to pay the EU could be billions of pounds higher than estimated.
Prime Minister Theresa May had suggested British taxpayers will fork over £35-39 billion to the EU as the price of Brexit — despite having put tens of billions more into the bloc than it has received from it over four decades — based on an agreed formula.
But the NAO has warned that “the EU commission could skew future decisions” in order to significantly increase that sum, 
The Telegraph reports.

But it seems the EU is being torn apart by the negotitions, says Express.

BREXIT is quite literally dividing the entire European Union with leaders from across the bloc struggling to work out how to handle the UK’s divorce and with MEPs getting a vote in the European Parliament they play a huge role in the split.
However, MEPs from across the political spectrum with eurosceptic and pro-European politicians have joined up to build a consensus that will ultimately protect the European Union
as well as their own agendas.
Nigel Farage’s EFDD group houses 45 MEPs who are critical of the EU in their own different ways, while Parliament’s largest group the EPP has 219 representatives wholeheartedly behind the Brussels project – including two British Remainers who left their fellow Conservatives to rejoin the EPP in 2017.

 NHS

In other news, the Mail reports on the suggested health tax.

A cabinet minister criticised Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s idea of an NHS tax as a ‘bad thing’ last night.
Liz Truss, who is the deputy to Chancellor Philip Hammond, said health spending should be funded from general taxation like other public services.
Her remarks expose the splits at the top of Government over how to raise more money for the health service.
Theresa May wants to raise NHS spending – on top of funding increases already announced. But there is disagreement between ministers over how to provide the cash.
Mr Hunt is thought to back a so-called hypothecated tax covering NHS spending, meaning all revenue from a particular levy would be directed to the health service.

Slavery

Modern slavery sometimes involves children, says the Times.

Children lured to Britain on the promise of trials at Premier League football clubs are among thousands of slaves whose captors are evading justice.
Only 6 per cent of crimes recorded by police forces under the Modern Slavery Act have led to charges since the legislation was introduced in 2015, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show. Of the 5,145 suspected slaves referred to the national safeguarding programme last year, 2,118 or (41 per cent) were under 18. Exploitation of children and teenagers increased 66 per cent on the previous year, with total referrals up from 3,804.
Police forces were accused yesterday of failing to adequately investigate modern slavery.

The Times has the story of one child.

A young lad turned up alone at the reception desk at White Hart Lane a few years ago saying that he had come from overseas. He was expecting a trial at Tottenham Hotspur.
The boy, who seemed to be in his teens, claimed that he had already had a trial with one London team and the Premier League club would be his second. Alarm bells rang. There was no trial. The other London club was contacted and confirmed that there had been no trial for the youngster. Spurs’ safeguarding procedures kicked in. The police and local authorities were contacted, as well as officials at the French embassy because the boy spoke the language.

And the Mail tells the story in one house.

Among the last remaining long-term residents of their inner-city street, the comings and goings at the rented mid-terrace Edwardian house raised an eyebrow or two.
First there were its inhabitants, hollow-eyed and gaunt, among them a shaven-headed youth so thin ‘he looked like he was from The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas’, the Holocaust movie set in a Nazi extermination camp.
Then there was the fact that the occupants never used the front door, preferring instead to come and go via a back gate secured with a heavy-duty lock.
Most strange of all was the behaviour of two people spotted at the rear of the property one day.
‘They dragged a mattress out into the garden and used a hedge-cutter to chop it in two,’ the neighbour said. ‘I thought they were throwing it out, but they took the two halves back into the house.

Education

The Times has a story of reduced schooling.

A primary school in Birmingham has announced plans to cut its week to just four and a half days in a bid to slash teaching costs by more than £100,000.
Bordesley Green Primary School is the latest school to reveal plans to allow pupils to take a half day on Fridays, amid wider calls from head teachers for a shorter school week to help them to cope with tight budgets. The school said it would save £100,000 in costs and free up extra time for teachers to plan lessons.
Carole Harris, the school’s head teacher, told parents of the school’s 744 pupils that teachers could do their planning and preparation on Friday afternoons without needing to bring in supply teachers to cover them.

Immigration

Will we still have to allow EU residents into the country after Brexit? The Sun reports.

DOWNING Street sparked a bitter immigration row today by refusing to rule out preferential treatment for EU migrants post Brexit.
As the Commonwealth summit continued to be engulfed by the Windrush row, the PM’s spokesman said any details “would be a matter for future immigration policy”.
He added the Government would take the views of “different groups” including business organisations.
It came just hours after Brexit-backing Tories implored the PM to implement an immigration system that was “fair for all” when we leave the EU.
Some fear Home Secretary Amber Rudd is spearheading calls for the UK to offer a preferential deal on EU nationals to boost the chance of a trade agreement with Brussels.

Windrush generation

And in the other immigration story, it seems that records have not all been destroyed, says the Mail.

The arrival records for tens of thousands of immigrants from the Windrush generation have been found in the National Archives.
The find strengthen the cases for those trying to prove they are British citizens who were being told they had to leave the UK.
The ledger, found after an investigation by the Financial Times, shows arrivals at ports until 1960 with more than 85,000 people arriving from Caribbean countries.
These include citizens who arrived from the Caribbean on Empire Windrush in 1948 – it was the ship’s name that would come to define the generation.
The information, compiled by the Board of Trade, could proof vital in helping those under threat claim UK citizenship. 

But those who have suffered could be compensated, says the Independent.

Members of the Windrush generation wrongly hit by the scandal of the immigration crackdown will receive “compensation”, Theresa May has announced.
The payments – which No 10 says will go further than the simple reimbursement of costs incurred – will “resolve the anxiety and problems” they have suffered, the prime minister said.
More than 280 people have so far contacted a Home Office helpline for members of the Windrush generation with concerns about their migration status, prompting speculation the bill could run to millions.
Closing the Commonwealth summit, Ms May acknowledged the scandal that has overshadowed the event – caused by her own tough immigration rules, critics say.

And BBC News also carries the story.

Theresa May has said that members of the Windrush generation who have been treated unfairly by the Home Office are to be compensated “where appropriate”.
The PM said this will be offered to resolve the “anxieties and problems”.
Some people who came to the UK from the Commonwealth decades ago have been threatened with deportation or refused jobs or healthcare.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the National Archives hold arrival records for thousands of those people.
These records could help some of the Windrush generation who are struggling to prove they are in the UK legally.

Houses of Parliament

The bastion of our democracy is crumbling away, says the Mail.

A football sized chunk of masonry has broken away from a stone angel on parliament’s Victoria Tower and plummeted 230ft (70m) to the ground.
The chunk of stone missed pedestrians but police cordoned off an entrance to the Houses of Parliament and the garden beside it as a safety measure.
In October, an MP’s car windscreen was smashed when a piece of masonry fell from a building.
The car belonged to Tory MP Michael Ellis but colleagues said accident showed why Parliament needs urgent repairs.
The Palace of Westminster is in line for a major renovation expected to cost up to £3.9billion, but so far MPs have failed to reach a consensus on whether they should move out while the work is done.  

Snow

Enjoy the sunshine – it’s not going to last, says the Sun.

FORECASTERS have warned of snow next week – after Brits bask in the 29C heatwave over the tropical weekend.
Following sunny days for the UK this week  thunderstorms are predicted for Saturday and Sunday, as snow could return to Scottish highlands and northern parts of the UK.
After many delighted sunbathers put away their winter wear for good as the mercury soared this week, cooler air is predicted to return.
There is a risk of frost and wintry showers on the way, according to the Weather Channel, as higher parts of Scotland could see temperatures plummet to -3C.
Wales and parts of northern England may see some snowfall from the middle of next week – a staggering thought after Brits just experienced the hottest day of the year.

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