Brexit

Following claims that the UK government position was unclear, it seams the EU doesn’t know what it wants from Brexit either. The Express says:

ANGELA Merkel today admitted she can’t “give any details” about what the EU’s demand of sufficient progress actually means and incorrectly tried to shift blame onto chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
The German chancellor was grilled by reporters over what the vaguely defined term, as laid down in the bloc’s negotiating guidelines, specifically entails after leaders took just 90 seconds to decide not to open trade talks with Britain.
But despite the fact that European capitals are asking the UK to achieve this threshold, Mrs Merkel appeared to have no idea what it actually meant and fobbed off responsibility for its definition onto Mr Barnier. 

But it seems that the bloc has now realised that there is a possibility it’ll get nothing out of us and has changed its tune a bit, says the Telegraph.

EU leaders softened their stance significantly on Brexit talks yesterday amid fears in Brussels that Theresa May’s Government could collapse if negotiations remain deadlocked.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said she was now in “absolutely no doubt” that the EU and the UK could make a success of negotiations as she accepted for the first time that both sides must make concessions.
Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said talk of deadlock had been “exaggerated”, while Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, said he was determined to “have a fair deal” with the UK.
However, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, took a much firmer line by saying that Mrs May’s offer of €20 billion to settle the Brexit bill was “not halfway there”, while Mrs May failed to rule out paying as much as €60 billion as a final settlement.

The Times also reports the softening stance.

European leaders decided yesterday not to kick a prime minister when she’s down.
The European Council ended with a warm afterglow and a stress on progress, with more to come, in hitherto troubled Brexit negotiations.
After a week of telephone calls by Theresa May to EU leaders and a summit dinner speech, described by Malta’s prime minister as her “best performance yet”, the emphasis was positive but the smiles were sometimes forced.
“My impression is that the reports of the deadlock between the EU and UK have been exaggerated,” said Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, smiling at the end of a press conference.

And even the top man is playing down the prospect of ‘no deal’, says the Independent.

Reports that Brexit talks between Britain and the EU are deadlocked have been “exaggerated”, the president of the European Council has said.
Donald Tusk told reporters at the European Council summit in Brussels that there had been progress in talks, even though sufficient progress had not been reached to move to trade negotiations.
But European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker stood by the urgent description of the situation, first used by his chief negotiator Michel Barnier and coined at the end of the last round of talks this month.
Mr Tusk told reporters in Brussels at a press conference to mark the end of the summit: “After Prime Minister May’s intervention last night and our discussion about Brexit this morning my impression is that the reports of the deadlock between the EU and the UK have been exaggerated and while progress is not sufficient it doesn’t mean there’s no progress at all.”

BBC News also reports Tusk’s comments.

Reports of deadlock over Brexit negotiations may have been exaggerated, European Council President Donald Tusk has said after a Brussels summit.
Progress was “not sufficient” to begin trade talks with the UK now but that “doesn’t mean there is no progress at all”, he said.
EU leaders will discuss the issue internally, paving the way for talks with the UK, possibly in December.
Theresa May said there was “some way to go” but she was “optimistic”.
Speaking at the end of a two-day summit, Mr Tusk told reporters: “My impression is that the reports of the deadlock between the EU and the UK have been exaggerated.”

But the French president is continuing to play hardball, reports the Independent.

Work on settling Britain’s financial obligations to the EU when it leaves is not even halfway done, the French president has said.
Emmanuel Macron said Britain was far from what was needed for settling its financial settlement – which is estimated to be at least £20 billion.
“A lot is in the hands of Theresa May,” Macron said in a news conference at the end of a European Council summit in Brussels.
“If, as Prime Minister May said in Florence, we want to make sure that no-one will have to pay more or receive less, and if we want to make sure the UK will comply with all its commitments made as a member of the EU … I would say we are far from having reached the necessary financial commitments before we can open phase two.
“I can only underline how much work needs to be done.”
“I would say we are far from having reached the necessary financial commitments before we can open phase two,” he added. “We are not halfway there.”

And the Guardian claims Mr Macron thinks the UK is bluffing.

Emmanuel Macron has accused Brexiters of seeking to “bluff” the EU into softening its negotiating stance by championing a no-deal scenario.
In a dramatic intervention at a summit of European leaders in Brussels, the French president said such an outcome was “in no case” part of the discussions, in an apparent reference to reports that the Brexit secretary, David Davis, was planning to positively present a plan to the UK cabinet for Britain to strike out of the EU without a deal.
“There is one negotiator on the British side under the political authority of Theresa May,” Macron said. “At no moment has Theresa May ever raised a ‘no deal’ as an option.

Sky News also reports the French president’s comment.

European leaders have suggested Britain is “bluffing” about a “no deal” divorce after a high-stakes summit in Brussels.
French President Emmanuel Macron suggested British ministers were making “noise” and giving “false information” about the risk of a cliff-edge separation with the EU.
“There is one negotiator on the British side, under the political authority of Theresa May,” he said at a press conference on Friday afternoon.
“At no point did she mention no deal as an option. There could be noise, there could be bluffing, there could be false information, there could be people who are secondary players – this is for the media to talk about.
“But at no point was (no deal) raised in the official discussions.”

The Morning Star reports a demand for more money from the UK.

THERESA MAY was told by European Union leaders yesterday that she must be willing to pay more for Britain to leave the bloc before any discussions on future trade can go ahead.
French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that the EU should receive £36 billion.
He dismissed an earlier offer of £18bn from Britain’s Brexit team, saying that it would not even take them “halfway” to negotiations.
Mr Macron also said Ms May had not mentioned the possibility of a no-deal outcome when she addressed EU leaders over dinner on Thursday evening. He indicated that the idea could be “bluffing” by “secondary players.”

And the Sun also claims the UK must up its offer if it wants to talk trade.

EU leaders today offered Theresa May a Brexit divorce deal by Christmas – but only if she forks out £48bn for it.
After the PM left a Brussels summit, Europe’s other 27 leaders met to give the order to prepare for trade and transition talks from December.
But they all made it clear that Phase Two of Brexit talks will only start if Mrs May spells out what future EU obligations – such as long-term grants and pensions – she will stump up for.
So far, Britain has offered £18billion in exchange for a two year-long transition period  from 2019 to 2021.
But French president Emmanuel Macron risked a fresh row by insisting the figure was “not even half way there”.

The Express claims the EU is stalling.

BRUSSELS bosses are “stalling unreasonably” in Brexit talks because they are desperate for the UK to remain in the EU, according to a financial expert.
As fears mount that Britain could crash out of the European Union without any formal agreement with the bloc, a financial commentator has accused the EU of sabotaging Brexit negotiations.
David Buik MBE, from Panmure Gordon & Co, believes the EU is scared that Britain’s exit will “open the floodgates” for other disgruntled nations.
“No deal is not a good idea,” he told Express.co.uk. “However what is even worse is a procrastination of any decision.
“The EU are stalling unreasonably and I would probably act in the same manner. 

But Mrs May won’t give a final figure until after trade talks, says the Independent.

Theresa May has refused to put a figure on Britain’s Brexit divorce bill during the first phase of secession negotiations as EU leaders warn she will need to make a concrete offer in order to make progress.
Speaking at the European Council summit in Brussels the Prime Minister told reporters that the figure for the liabilities bill – estimated to be at least £20 billion – would only be named at the very final stages of talks.
EU leaders and negotiators however say those final stages will only be reached once the divorce bill is finalised – continuing the deadlock between the two sides. 

UKIPs own Gerrard Batten claims we don’t need to give them any money at all.

Following the conclusions of this week’s Council meeting in Brussels, Gerard Batten MEP, the UKIP Brexit spokesman said: “Fifteen months after the Referendum two things are glaringly obvious: Mrs May is completely unable or unwilling to take control of the situation, and the EU is determined to hold Britain to ransom.
“How many times does it need to be said? The UK is not married to the EU, and therefore there is no ‘divorce bill’. Even so, when couples divorce there is usually a dividing of assets, not a one-sided bill.
“Mrs May should end this fiasco by telling the EU not only are we leaving but that we don’t owe them a penny. They owe us a lot, given that we have always been one of the top net contributors to the budget, and we own a big share of the EU’s assets. But never mind, working out how much we are owed is not worth the time and effort and we are moving out and they can keep the assets.

And as a side story, Lord (Peter) Mandelson has shown himself to be an idiot – again, says the Mail.

Lord Mandelson’s claim Brexit could be cancelled because voters were not told the truth about leaving the European Union was today exposed as a sham.
The former EU commissioner, who is in line to receive an annual pension of £35,000 from  Brussels, said ‘nobody’ had warned before the referendum how Britain would leave the single market.
He argued that as ‘new facts are coming to light’ people could change their minds about leaving.
But his argument immediately unravelled as it emerged that he had warned himself that Britain would have to leave the single market just days ahead of the vote last June.

The Sun claims he was humiliated.

LORD Mandelson was left humiliated yesterday after claiming no Brexit voter was ever told leaving the EU meant leaving the single market.
Within hours it emerged the Labour peer and arch Europhile HIMSELF had warned exactly that – two weeks before last year’s Referendum.
Referring to a warning from Germany at the time, Mandy said it was clear that we couldn’t leave and “still enjoy the benefits of the single market”.
David Cameron and George Osborne both said the same during the Referendum campaign.
Lord Mandelson’s extraordinary claim came as he insisted “new facts” about Brexit were coming to light – and the public should be given a chance to change their minds.

NHS

Elsewhere, it seems the NHS is finally turning its attention to health tourism, says the Telegraph.

Hospital staff will be told to routinely ask patients for utility bills, bank statements and proof of employment in a bid to identify those who should be paying for NHS treatment, under new laws.
Overseas patients will be charged “upfront” for NHS treatment, under the legislation which comes in force on Monday.
Ministers said the changes were an attempt to protect “a cherished national institution that is paid for by British taxpayers”.
From Monday, those resident outside Britain will need to pay for non-urgent care, in a bid to clamp down on “health tourism” which is estimated to cost the health service up to £2bn a year.

The Mail also has the story.

Patients in hospitals will be asked where they have lived for the last six months as part of a crackdown on health tourism.
From Monday, hospitals will be obliged by law to identify and charge upfront any overseas patient who is not entitled to free NHS care.
Staff have been told to ask the question of every patient starting a new course of treatment either in a clinic or on a ward.
They are instructed ‘to avoid discrimination’ and quiz patients from all backgrounds and nationalities, even though the majority will be UK residents.

And the Independent has a story about attacks on NHS staff.

The Government has been accused of creating a “dangerous blind spot” over the scale of attacks on NHS staff after it revealed it no longer collects information on hospital assaults.
Ministers admitted for the first time that they will rely on an optional staff survey to tot up the number of attacks – a move branded “totally inadequate” by nursing leaders.
Physical assaults on NHS staff rose by 4 per cent from 67,864 in 2014/15 to 70,555 in 2015/16, according to NHS Protect, which collected data on attacks until it was quietly axed earlier this year.

Roadworks

The Mail has a story about motorways.

Speed limits for motorway roadworks will be increased from 50mph to 60mph in a bid to make roads safer and less congested.
Highways England is set to introduce the higher limit early next year after a study found drivers felt more relaxed travelling at speed.
It is also hoped that the measure will help to improve congestion caused by the ongoing works.
The Government is investing £50million towards 30 large-scale motorway improvement projects.
But Highways England is looking at ways to ease congestion after it was announced that 16 road-building projects would be delayed by up to two years.

The Times has picked up the story.

The 50mph speed limit imposed on drivers going past roadworks will be scrapped after research found that motorists felt safer at faster speeds.
Highways England said that the limit on motorways would increase to 60mph on many stretches to cut congestion and improve traffic flows.
Innovative tests using heart monitors showed that motorists felt more relaxed at the higher limit because it allowed them to accelerate away from large lorries and spend less time checking speedometers.
The average-speed cameras used to police limits will be permanently recalibrated to 60mph as early as next year on some sites, including many unmanned roadworks at night.

Catalonia

The problems in Catalonia are covered by the Morning Star.

PRO-DEMOCRACY campaigners will march in solidarity with Catalonia and against Spanish repression and authoritarianism in London today.
Organisers of the demonstration are calling for the British government to condemn the violence by the Spanish state against “peaceful civilians” and demand the immediate release of political prisoners.
Leading separatist activists Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, who head the Catalan National Assembly and Omnium Cultura respectively, were denied bail on Monday after being arrested on charges of sedition in the run-up to the independence referendum two weeks ago.

Breitbart reports a clampdown on the region.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says his government will announce on Saturday the specific measures it plans to take control of the Catalonia region now that an agreement has been reached with the country’s main opposition parties.
Rajoy refused to confirm Friday if the agreement with the Socialists included plans to hold regional elections in Catalonia in January, as announced by the party’s negotiator earlier in the day.
His government also reached agreement with the center-right, pro-business Ciudadanos (Citizens) party.
Rajoy, commenting on the unprecedented constitutional step he is taking to assume control of Catalonia, said: “The goal is double: the return to legality and the recovery of institutional normalcy.”

And the Express reports that the problems could be the EU’s fault.

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin has blasted the European Union for having “double standards” in rejecting Catalan independence.
He criticised EU member state’s support of separatists movements in some regions, like Kosovo, but not for others.
Mr Putin said it risked stable development of the continent.
In a speech in Sochi last night, the Russian president also suggested the support of Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Europe had bolstered separatist movements elsewhere.
Speaking to the EU, he said: “You were so heedless in using this political situation and the desire to appease the big brother from Washington to support the separation of Kosovo so unanimously, provoking other such processes in other regions.

Westmonster claims there could be another General Election in the region.

The Spanish government has secured the support of the Catalan opposition party to hold a fresh General Election in the region in January.
The Socialists’ Party of Catalonia (PSOE) said they approved of a package of unprecedented measures which will see the central government in Madrid impose direct rule on the region until fresh elections can be held.
Tensions reached boiling point yesterday after Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy,  said he would hold a special cabinet meeting on Saturday to invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which would suspend Catalonia’s autonomy.

And ITV News says the king of Spain is fighting any potential breakaway.

Catalonia “is and will be an essential part” of Spain, King Felipe VI said on Thursday, adding that everyone must respect the Constitution and the principles of parliamentary democracy.
Felipe’s intervention, the second during the constitutional crisis, came as Madrid plans to  impose direct rule on the region after Catalonia’s leaders threatened to declare independence.
Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled that Catalonia’s recent referendum on secession was illegal and the Spanish parliament has rejected the regional government’s attempts to break away.

Storm Brian

The wind and rain of ‘killer storm’ Brian is highlighted in the Sun.

STEEL barricades are being put up in Cornwall as Britain prepares for Storm Brian to batter the country with 70mph gales and lashing rain.
Severe weather warnings are in place with the South West coast expected to see the worst conditions as the “weather bomb” sweeps in from the Atlantic tonight — with warnings in place for Brits to not take selfies with the storms.
Environment Agency workers were today pictured erecting defensive barriers in the Cornish town of Fowey – where Dawn French owns a £5million clifftop mansion.
It’s the first time the steel fences, usually reserved for protecting cities from swollen rivers bursting their banks, have been used on the Cornish coast.

And the Star claims the country is bracing itself.

BRITAIN is bracing itself for the arrival of Storm Brian as gale force winds look set to bring widespread disruption. Forecasters have warned of potential power cuts, flooding and transport delays as superstorm Brian crashes into the UK.
Treacherous 70mph winds are likely to set in this morning prompting the Met Office to issue weather warnings.
Boffins put out a yellow warning across Wales, southern England and the Midlands, which will remain until midnight.
Chief forecaster Dan Suri said: “Gusts between 45 and 55 mph are expected widely within the warning area, with gusts of 60 to 70 mph along exposed coastal areas.
“These are expected to coincide with high tides, leading to locally dangerous conditions in coastal parts.”

ITV News also has the story.

Britons are braced for a windy and rainy weekend as Storm Brian sweeps up from the south coast. The weather is expected to cause widespread disruption, including power cuts, flooding and transport delays.
Winds of up to 70mph are forecast to batter southern coastal areas from the early hours of Saturday, before making their way north.
A yellow warning for all of the southern and western coast is in place from 4am, but also applies as far as Cumbria and Lancashire in the north-west.
The blustery conditions are expected to coincide with high tides, with the potential to cause treacherous waves, the Met Office warned. Many parts of the UK will also endure a night of heavy rain on Friday evening.

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