Brexit

Today’s Mirror has a story about a ramping-up of our withdrawal from the EU on WTO terms.

Government and NHS chiefs have set up a “war room” to deal with a No Deal Brexit in a major escalation of crisis plans for Britain.
The new ‘Operational Response Centre’ was revealed today in a 34-page plan “sneaked out” days before Christmas, while MPs are away on holiday.
Today’s plan also warns doctors and nurses could have to cancel holidays as hospitals and surgeries battle to cope with a no-deal withdrawal on March 29.
No Deal could “increase demand”, the document says. It is understood this refers to UK expats having to return to Britain for treatment – if, as chiefs fear, reciprocal free care in EU nations is not negotiated in time.
And NHS staff will be “directed” to urge patients not to stockpile medicines personally to avoid shortages throughout the system.

The Express has picked up the story.

NO-DEAL Brexit plans have ramped up with hundreds of Whitehall staff deployed to prepare for Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.
Britain’s foreign aid department said 600 staff will be seconded to other departments as part of Theresa May’s contingency plans. The Department for International Development said civil servants will be moved over to “front line” departments such as the Department for Exiting the EU and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. They said it was part of “sensible” precautions, which showed the “flexibility” of the civil service, according to the Daily Mail.

Meanwhile, some of the country’s biggest companies say we have nothing to fear from WTO rules, says Breitbart.

The Chairman of JCB, one of Britain’s biggest manufacturers and exporters, has said there is “nothing to fear” from making a clean break with the EU in a so-called “No Deal” Brexit.
Writing to the Telegraph newspaper, company chairman Lord Anthony Bamford said that as the head of Britain’s “largest manufacturer of construction equipment”, with “decades of experience selling British-made equipment to WTO and EU countries”, he felt “compelled to say this about a no-deal Brexit: there is nothing to fear from trading under World Trade Organization (WTO) terms.”
EU loyalists in the United Kingdom have argued that “No Deal” would such a disaster for the British economy — with the country supposedly risking shortages of drinking water, medicine, pre-made sandwiches, and Mars bars, among other things — that it should be taken off the table entirely, and the public forced to vote again on whether or not to stay in the EU if Theresa May’s “worst deal in history” is not ratified by Parliament.

And Breitbart also quotes the boss of the leading Brexit organisation.

Leave Means Leave chairman John Longworth has said that Britain will “prosper” if it makes a clean break from EU on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
Responding to news that the European Commission had broken its own hard line and plans to allow continuity of certain arrangements in the event of a No Deal Brexit, Mr Longworth told BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight that the plans would “allow the UK to leave on the 29th of March without disruption, effectively gliding us into a situation where we are able to implement the benefits of Brexit and prosper as a consequence.”
Highlighting the negative language often used by British europhiles and the mainstream media, the leading businessman said: “Far from it being a ‘cliff edge,’ ‘catastrophe,’ and ‘crashing out,’ actually we leave the EU and move on to better things.”

Ireland

The alleged problems with the Irish border are the EU’s fault, says the DUP and reports Westmonster.

The DUP’s Leader in Westminster, Nigel Dodds, has hit out once again at the European Union’s backstop trap with the Irish government’s plans showing quite clearly they are not ramping up for a hard border and Brussels haven’t signalled that either. The entire issue has been weaponised by the EU who are seeking to trap the UK in an indefinite backstop.
Dodds has responded by saying: “The utter hypocrisy of those espousing the current Withdrawal Agreement with its trap of a backstop has been completely exposed.
“The EU published its No Deal plans. There are detailed plans for a wide raft of sectors. But it totally avoids spelling out what happens on the border. What does that tell you?
“Even in the event of a so-called No Deal scenario a hard border won’t happen.

The Express claims the DUP chief says it’s a con.

IRELAND and the European Union’s preparations for a no-deal Brexit prove the backstop is an “utter con trick”, according to the deputy leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Nigel Dodds believes Dublin’s contingency plan for the UK leaving the EU without a deal shows there would not be any border checks on goods, meaning a hard border will not happen. Mr Dodds added the European Commission “avoids spelling out what happens on the border” in their planning. The Belfast North MP said the lack of action on behalf of the EU and Ireland indicated the two believe a hard border is easily avoidable and the backstop is not necessary.

A leading Brexit MP has also opined on the matter, reports Westmonster.

Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has responded to the Irish government’s contingency planning by insisting that it shows “No Deal means no hard border”.
The issue of a hard border has been used by Brussels in the EU negotiations, with the much-hated backstop one of the end products of that.
he attempt by the EU side to lock the UK into their orbit is why Theresa May’s deal currently has no chance of getting through Parliament.
But the simple fact is that the British government aren’t going to put up a hard border, nor are the Irish government. Are the EU going to send over their soon-to-be army?

Conservative Party

The PM may be facing another resignation, says the Times.

A cabinet minister has indicated that he could resign if Britain appeared willing to leave the European Union without a deal amid growing concerns that Theresa May could face a walkout by senior colleagues.
David Gauke, the justice secretary, said yesterday that he would find it “very difficult” if it looked as though the prime minister were steering the UK towards a no-deal exit. He has previously criticised cabinet colleagues for promoting the idea of managed a no-deal Brexit in which EU countries would co-operate with Britain. Other cabinet members are understood to believe it would be hard for them to remain in post if Britain left the EU without an agreement.

Sky News also has the story.

David Gauke could be the latest cabinet minister to quit Theresa May’s government over Brexit as the UK faces leaving the European Union without a deal.
The Justice Secretary said he would find it “very difficult” to remain in cabinet after the prime minister said a no-deal Brexit is a possible outcome if her plan is rejected by MPs in January’s Commons showdown.
He said: “I think making a conscious decision to proceed with no deal would not be the responsible course of action.”
Mr Gauke added he would be “very surprised if the prime minister went down that route”.
Asked if he could remain in the cabinet if that became the government’s policy, he told the BBC’s Political Thinking with Nick Robinson podcast: “I think it would be very difficult for me in those circumstances.

Would the Remainer be missed?  The Mail says:

David Gauke has warned he could quit the Cabinet if Theresa May pushes ahead with a no deal Brexit.
The Justice Secretary said he would find it ‘very difficult’ to stay in the Government if the UK appeared on course to crash out of the EU.
His comments come as the PM is struggling to keep her warring ministers in line as they jostle to lay out their own visions of Brexit.
Mrs May has warned that Britain could crash out of the Brussels bloc unless MPs vote for her Brexit deal.

The PM is still fighting for her deal, says the Sun.

THERESA May has invited all Tory MPs and their spouses to a party in Downing Street as part of a New Year charm offensive to get her Brexit deal over the line.
The PM has planned her big get-together in the week of January 7 – when the debate over her all-important Withdrawal Agreement returns to the Commons.
The crunch vote will take place a week later but No10 is desperately trying to win over more than 100 sceptical Tory MPs and the DUP’s 10 MPs.
They currently oppose the deal because they fear the Irish backstop could trap Britain indefinitely in the EU’s customs union.

Labour Party

But it seems the Opposition is still planning to take us out of the EU, says the Guardian.

Jeremy Corbyn has defiantly restated Labour’s policy of leading Britain out of the European Union with a refashioned Brexit deal, shrugging off intense pressure from Labour MPs and activists for the party to throw its weight behind a second referendum.
The Labour leader insisted that even if his party won a snap general election in the new year, he would seek to go to Brussels and try to secure a better deal – if possible, in time to allow Brexit to go ahead on 29 March.
“You’d have to go back and negotiate, and see what the timetable would be,” he said.

Project Fear

Planners could be brought in if there is a problem, says the Telegraph.

Michael Gove is expected to become the first minister to recruit a military planner to address concerns that parts of the UK could run short on food in the event of a no deal Brexit.
The planner, who will be in place by January, has been offered to Defra by the Ministry of Defence to help ensure that shops in rural communities have enough food in the event of a “worst case scenario”.
They will draw up contingencies based on a blueprint known in Whitehall as Operation Yellowhammer, which assumes “in extremis” that trade between Calais and Dover become severely disrupted.

NHS

There are also plans to avoid problems in the NHS, says the Guardian.

The government has set up a team of troubleshooters to tackle problems in the NHS in the event of a no-deal Brexit, including drug shortages and the loss of key staff.
Ministers have admitted there will be disruption in the NHS if Britain leaves the EU on 29 March without a deal, and the team’s job will be to try to minimise that.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, disclosed this week that he was arranging for special flights to bring medicines from the Netherlands to beat anticipated shortages, and he urged NHS bodies in England to buy fridges in which to stockpile drugs.

EU

Further criticism of the EU Commission president is in the Telegraph.

Jean-Claude Juncker is “ghastly” and his “grotesque” behaviour should have been subject to an official complaint, Amber Rudd has claimed.
Citing the EU Commission president’s “terrible” conduct at last week’s EU summit, when he appeared to manhandle the Prime Minister and ruffled a woman’s hair, the Work and Pensions Secretary criticised his treatment of Theresa May, saying: “(He’s) ghastly. What I minded before that were those pictures of the way he was holding the Prime Minister. I did not like that.”
Referring to the hair incident, the former Home Secretary added: “It’s grotesque. I mean, if that happened in our parliament I hope there would be a formal complaint.

The Mail also reports the minister’s comments.

Jean-Claude Juncker’s ‘grotesque’ behaviour towards women should have been put under official investigation, Amber Rudd has claimed.
The Work and Pensions Secretary called the EU Commission president ‘ghastly’ after last week’s EU summit during which he appeared to manhandle Theresa May and ruffled a woman’s hair – conduct Miss Rudd condemned as ‘terrible’.
She said: ‘He’s ghastly. What I minded before that were those pictures of the way he was holding the Prime Minister. I did not like that.’

Drones

The chaos at Gatwick has led to two arrests, says the Star.

TWO people have been arrested in connection with flying drones at Gatwick Airport, which caused widespread disruption and chaos.
Sussex Police said the man and woman were arrested shortly after 10pm on Friday.
Superintendent James Collis said: “Our investigations are still ongoing, and our activities at the airport continue to build resilience to detect and mitigate further incursions from drones by deploying a range of tactics.
“We continue to urge the public, passengers and the wider community around Gatwick to be vigilant and support us by contacting us immediately if they believe they have any information that can help us in bringing those responsible to justice.

The Mail also has the story.

Two people have been arrested in connection with criminal drone activity at Gatwick Airport, police announced last night.
The two suspects were held on Friday night after another day of chaos at the airport which saw dozens more flights cancelled and passengers thrown into chaos just days before Christmas.
Planes were grounded again at 5pm when a drone was sighted above the airfield before air traffic resumed with severe delays on Friday night.
One flight from Morocco appeared to be just moments away from landing when it was forced to divert only 1,000 feet above the ground last night while other passengers were sitting ready for take-off when pilots told them of another sighting.

And the Telegraph looks into the technology surrounding the chaos.

Airports have been unable to protect themselves from drones because the Government has failed to approve cutting-edge technology, it emerged on Friday night.
Gatwick Airport finally resumed flights on Friday but only after anti-drone systems were put in place, making it safe for aircraft to take off and land.
In response to the Gatwick crisis, the Government is understood to be  planning to rush in new laws that would pave the way for airports to deploy hi-tech jamming and detection equipment.
A drones Bill, which was originally proposed more than a year ago, would enable airports to use technology that creates an “electronic fence” around them and disables the radio signals and GPS used by controllers.

The Times claims the transport secretary knew about the risks.

Chris Grayling shelved plans to introduce laws regulating drone use in Britain despite being warned on multiple occasions about the risk they posed to airports, The Times has learnt.
Gatwick was forced last night to shut for the third time in three days after another drone sighting, causing further misery for thousands of passengers. It reopened after about 90 minutes. Two suspects were later arrested by police.
The army and police had appeared powerless to stop drone operators despite deploying a counter-drone system that they said was capable of jamming the devices.

The Mail claims it was because of Brexit.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling blocked tougher anti-drone laws because his department was too busy making preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
Officials had been planning tough new laws to protect airports from drone attacks by allowing the deployment of technology to intercept and take control of rogue UAVs.
The new legislation was due to be published in the spring but had been delayed because civil servants were being stretched by preparing for Brexit.
Airline pilots and air traffic controllers have been warning authorities about the threat posed by drones by several years.

The Times claims the airport was unprotected.

The Army had to borrow an anti-drone device from a private contractor yesterday as it emerged that Gatwick and other airports were unprotected without the help of the military.
Chris Woodroofe, the chief operating officer of Gatwick, said he could not rule out future disruption from drone users due to a lack of equipment to deal with the threat. He said they had been working with technology providers for the past 12 months but that at present there was no “commercially available airport-licensed proven technology that I could implement”.

Cannabis

Despite medicinal cannabis being on prescription, the Telegraph claims doctors are not prescribing it.

Doctors have been accused of denying medicinal cannabis to patients on the NHS despite its legalisation by Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary.
Patients are being forced to pay for the treatment privately or travel abroad after being told by doctors they are not entitled to the drug because there is no clinical evidence that it is beneficial.
Billy Caldwell, 13,  whose plight led to the change in the law, has been forced to go to Canada with his mother Charlotte to seek medication after doctors cited new NHS guidance that they could not prescribe cannabis unless there was clinical evidence it would benefit his epilepsy.

Education

Universities are giving out too many firsts, says the Times.

Three quarters of first-class degrees awarded by some universities are unexplained, an analysis shows. Even some elite universities belonging to the Russell Group cannot justify up to a third of their firsts, the student watchdog suggests.
The disclosure comes amid growing calls for universities to reveal how they convert degree marks into firsts, to restore credibility to degree classification after rampant degree inflation, and accusations that institutions are manipulating algorithms in their favour. The proportion of firsts has increased from 8 per cent 20 years ago to 27 per cent last summer.

Dementia

A book could give an insight into dementia, says the Times.

One of Agatha Christie’s last novels was called Elephants Can Remember. By that stage in her life though, even if elephants could, Christie, 81, could not.
Her writing showed a sharply reduced vocabulary, her sentences repeated common phrases and she used far more “indefinite words” such as “something” and “anything”.
Scientists think they know why: she had Alzheimer’s. Now, using similar techniques to those applied to her novels, researchers believe they have devised a test that could be used to spot dementia in all of us after analysing a short conversation with a patient.

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