Brexit

The Telegraph has an interesting story about a successor to the Chequers agreement.

A secret Brexit plan has been drawn up by Cabinet ministers amid concerns that Theresa May’s Chequers compromise will be killed off by Brussels.
The “fallback” option is based on existing “best-in-class” trade deals between the EU and other nations such as Canada, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
Cabinet sources confirmed that work on the plan is ongoing and that in the event that Mrs May’s Chequers compromise is rejected or collapses in the face of Eurosceptic opposition it will be presented to Brussels.

The Guardian claims older voters saw Leave adverts on Facebook.

Vote Leave’s supposedly youth-focused sister group showed most of its Facebook advertising to older voters during the EU referendum campaign, according to data released by Facebook that bolsters the case that it was not a separate entity.
This month, following a series of stories in the Observer, the Electoral Commission
fined Vote Leave and BeLeave a combined £61,000 and reported individuals involved to the police after concluding that the official pro-Brexit campaign group broke legal spending limits before the 2016 referendum.

EU

Over on the Continent, it seems that the Prime Minister’s charm offensive is not working. The Independent says:

Theresa May’s efforts to bypass Brussels and deal directly with EU nations have been rebuffed as the risk of Britain hurtling towards  no deal appeared to intensify.
The prime minister was also warned on Friday that the European parliament 
would veto her Chequers deal unless Ms May comes up with a new plan for the Irish border.
It comes as 
The Independent’s campaign demanding a Final Say for the public on any  Brexit deal attracted hundreds of thousands  signatures in just 48 hours and received backing from a string of prominent politicians.
As Ms May and her cabinet ministers began a charm offensive across European capitals, officials from across the continent voiced scepticism about her plan.

The Express says:

THERESA May was yesterday warned not to expect EU nations to take her side against Brussels. The Prime Minister is on a European tour in a bid to sell her Brexit blueprint directly to European Union leaders.
She visited Austria for talks with her counterpart there, and also the Czech PM, as part of a UK government cross-Europe charm offensive this week by ministers.
But before Mrs May’s trip yesterday, the Czech Europe minister Ales Chmelar insisted the bloc was united behind negotiator Michel Barnier’s tough approach.

And the bloc’s chief negotiator is still playing hardball, says the Guardian.

Michel Barnier has warned that attempts to appeal to EU leaders over his head were a waste of time as he rejected Theresa May’s proposals on customs after Brexit, in effect killing off the Chequers plan.
On Friday Theresa May travels to Austria to meet Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and the Czech prime minister Andrej Babis, before heading off on her summer holiday.
May’s trip follows the EU chief Brexit negotiator insisting there was no difference of opinion in European capitals to exploit.
“Anyone who wants to find a sliver of difference between my mandate and what the heads of government say they want are wasting their time, quite frankly,” he told reporters
.

Breitbart compares the plan to a sinking boat.

EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier has holed Theresa May’s ultra-soft Brexit plan  below the waterline, rejecting her proposal — seen as a major concession by Brexiteers — for Britain to collect customs duties on the EU’s behalf.
The Prime Minister had sought to avoid the creation of a so-called ‘hard’ economic border between British Northern Ireland and the EU’s Irish Republic — billed as an absolute requirement in any deal, despite its relative  unimportance to trade — by offering to collect tariffs for goods destined for the EU on the bloc’s behalf.
The proposal was seen as a major concession and even an unacceptable act of submission by Brexiteers — but the EU has elected to regard it as an imposition.
“Maintaining control of our money, law and borders also applies to the EU customs
policy,” the Frenchman said at a press conference with the increasingly irrelevant new Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab — a clear jibe at Brexit supporters and their goals.

Huffington Post also reports:

The central plank of Theresa May’s Brexit plan has been dismissed by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier after he said Brussels won’t allow the UK to collect tariffs on its behalf.
At the heart of the Prime Minister’s plan, set out in a white paper a fortnight ago, is a “facilitated customs arrangement” under which tariffs charged at the border would be passed on to either the British or EU authorities depending on the destination of imported goods.
Appearing alongside new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab following their second round of talks in Brussels, Barnier left no doubt that this was not acceptable to the EU.
“The EU cannot and the EU will not delegate the application of its customs policy and rules and VAT and excises duty collection to a non-member who would not be subject to the EU’s governance structures,” he said.

The Express reports an economist who says the EU must do better.

THE European Union must take Theresa May’s Brexit proposals seriously if Brussels wants to strike a deal with the UK, a top economist has warned.
Guntram Wolff, head of the influential Bruegels think-tank, urged EU negotiators to be “confident enough” to reach an agreement with Mrs May.
He said Brussels should embrace the Prime Minister’s Brexit white paper for the sake of maintaining good relations with the UK.

And the Hungarian PM says the Brussels boss could be on the way out, says Breitbart.

Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán has said that the Jean-Claude Juncker-led European Commission’s days are “numbered”, with its mandate expiring in May and Eurosceptic parties set to make gains in 2019 elections.
Prime Minister Orbán made the comments during his Friday interview on Kossuth Radio in relation to the Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, recently launching infringement procedures against Hungary over its “Stop Soros” law and related constitutional amendments.

The Sun labelled Juncker a ‘dead frog’.

SOZZLED Jean-Claude Juncker was branded a “dead frog” last night as another member state took aim at Brussels in a fresh blow to EU unity.
Hungary said the chief Eurocrat’s days are “numbered” and likened his administration to a twitching amphibian corpse.
Budapest called for “a new Commission with a new approach” to the highly divisive issue of migration. PM Viktor Orban raged: “We need a Commission after the European elections which does not punish those countries that protect their borders like Hungary.”

Next year’s Euro elections could be interesting, says Westmonster.

The story of the 2019 European Elections could well be the same as what we’ve seen in recent years across the continent: the rise of anti-EU, Eurosceptic forces.
Analysis by Reuters points to a potential 60% increase in the number of Eurosceptic MEPs in the EU Parliament after the next Euro Elections.
Though British MEPs should of course be gone by then – meaning no UKIP – the rise of Lega and Five Star in Italy could fuel an increase in those hostile to EU centralisation in the EU Parliament.
The EFDD grouping currently led by Nigel Farage could increase in size from 45 to 59 seats.
And the ENF group containing the parties of Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders could jump from 35 to 63 seats due to the surge in support of Matteo Salvini’s Lega in Italy.

Ireland

The problem over the Irish border is still rumbling on, says the Sun.

BRITAIN will warn Brussels that a hard border in Ireland will be inescapable in a No Deal scenario in a bid to keep talks about Theresa May’s Chequers plan alive.
After the EU appeared to shoot down a central plank of the PM’s soft Brexit blueprint, Brexit officials are planning to make the stark warning to their EU counterparts to jolt negotiations.
The potentially toxic threat is unveiled today by Sun columnist James Forsyth who reports senior Government strategists believe that cannot go on with “the government offering up concession after concession.”
He added “Some in government believe that they can reverse the EU’s threat; pointing out that if there is no deal there’ll be a hard border in Ireland.” And they hope the message will make EU leaders more likely to compromise – but it is set to be controversial in both the UK and Ireland.

And the European Parliament has also rejected the plans, reports the Independent.

The European parliament has dramatically upped the stakes in Brexit talks by threatening to veto any deal unless Theresa May comes up with new plans for the Northern Ireland border.
The legislature’s Brexit steering group, made up of MEPs from across its parties, accused Theresa May of “backsliding” on the issue despite committing to prevent a hard border in December, and again in a letter in March.
But the body, chaired by Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt, said the UK has failed to come up with a workable way to prevent a hard border and that by its actions it was making a deal “impossible”.
“As recognised by the prime minister in her letter to President Tusk of 19 March 2018, the ‘backstop’ must avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, protect the Good Friday Agreement and safeguard the integrity of the single market, customs union and common commercial policy,” the group said
.

Conservative Party

The Tories could be in trouble at the next election, reports the Express.

THE TORY party will face a serious risk of not being re-elected in the next UK general election if Theresa May does not deliver Brexit as “promised”, a former special adviser to David Davis has warned.
Stewart Jackson lashed out at Mrs May’s conservative government, declaring that her Chequers plans may leave Britons feeling “deceived and betrayed” about Brexit.
Mr Jackson, left his role as special adviser to the government after Mr Davis resigned from his position as Brexit Secretary, in protest against Mrs May’s approach to Brexit negotiations.
Speaking about the Tory Party’s standing at the next general election, Mr Jackson told Westmonster: “It has the potential, if it’s not ameliorated in some way, to be as bad as the Conservative Government in ’92 in terms of the ERM.

UKIP

And our party is attracting a lot more support, reports Westmonster.

Voters are increasingly looking at UKIP again when it comes to the issues of Brexit and immigration, according to a new YouGov poll.
A huge 31% of Leave voters now back UKIP when it comes to border policy and 26% of Leavers back the party as the best on Brexit.
Overall when the public are asked which party would best handle the issue of asylum and immigration, 17% now say UKIP. That’s up from 12% at the start of the month and includes 23% of Conservative 2017 voters.
On the issue of Brexit, 13% now back UKIP, up from 7% in early July. The party is now backed on this issue by 18% of Tory voters.

Second referendum

An expert says a second referendum would further split the country, says the Express.

A SECOND referendum over Brexit is not the solution because Britain would be handing the decision from the hands of deadlocked politicians to a deadlocked public, a Brexit expert said.
Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs Anand Menon says that although some arguments for another vote are that the facts are clearer and the arguments are more advanced, it still wouldn’t matter.

And in a comment described as ‘bizarre’, an ex spin doctor has suggested Leave voters should be jailed, the Express reports.

TONY Blair’s ex-spin doctor Alastair Campbell has called for Brexiteers to be “jailed” in a bizarre Twitter rant as debate rages over a second EU referendum.
The arch-Remainer, who has more than 430,000 followers on the social network, appeared to compare Brexiteers with Sheffield Wednesday footballers who were jailed for accepting bribes to rig matches in the 1960s.
He tweeted: “When Marseille won the European version by cheating and lies they lost the trophy.
“When Sheff Wed players took bribes they went to jail. As should some of your Leave pals.”

Fake news

The broadcast media have caught up with a report just published. Sky News says:

Voters are being manipulated by “fake news” on social media, according to a new report from MPs.
The inquiry into fake news by the digital, culture, media and sport select committee says electoral law needs to be updated and tech companies need to do more to stop malicious propaganda on their networks.
Damian Collins, who chairs the committee, called the issue “a crisis in our democracy – based on the systematic manipulation of data to support the relentless targeting of citizens, without their consent, by campaigns of disinformation and messages of hate”.

BBC News is also on the story.

The UK faces a “democratic crisis” due to the spread of “pernicious views” and the manipulation of personal data, a parliamentary committee is set to warn.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has been investigating disinformation and fake news following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
In its first report it will suggest social media companies should face tighter regulation.
It also proposes measures to combat election interference.
The report warns that the “relentless targeting of hyper-partisan views, which play to the fears and prejudices of people, in order to influence their voting plans” is a threat to democracy.

Galileo

Looks like the EU has blinked over the question of the Galileo satellite, says the Guardian.

British police and armed forces could be guaranteed uninterrupted access to the encrypted signal of the  European Union’s Galileo satellite system, it has emerged, as Brussels negotiators consider a unique deal for the UK on the project after Brexit.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, is mulling an offer on the satellite project that would put the UK on better terms than other third-party countries over use of the encrypted service, according to diplomatic sources.
The plans, which are still on the drawing board, suggest a bit more flexibility than Barnier’s public position that the UK would be treated like any other non-EU country.

Divorce laws

Away from politics, the Times reports on the prospect of no-fault divorce laws.

The archaic, fault-based divorce laws of England and Wales could be scrapped under a review that ministers are set to support, The Times has learnt.
Justice ministers want to work with Baroness Butler-Sloss, the crossbench peer and former senior family judge, on a private member’s bill urging divorce law reform which comes up for debate in the autumn.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that Tini Owens, 68, could not have a divorce from her husband Hugh, 80, of nearly 40 years, on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, but suggested that parliament might review the law.

Education

And it seems that some universities are dropping their standards, says the Mail.

Almost half of students who get unconditional offers do not reach minimum A-level requirements for courses, data suggests.
Kent University reveals 44 per cent dropped one or more grades after a guaranteed place on one of its courses.
Astonishingly, a handful of these students went down seven grades – the equivalent of a shift from ABB to DDD.
Students traditionally have been given university places on condition that they achieve certain grades – but an unconditional offer means they get their place regardless of how badly they perform.

Eurotunnel

At the start of the holiday season, it seems Eurotunnel has problems, reports the Mail.

Holidaymakers trying to cross the Channel with Eurotunnel today faced six hour delays with temperatures reaching 95.F (35C) again with some desperately trying to book ferries or flights instead.
But many passengers have voiced their confusion after boarding Le Shuttle only to find empty, air-conditioned carriages.
Huge queues snaked to the Folkestone terminal from the M20 in Kent after 24 hours of chaos for drivers trying to get to France.
Passengers faced delays of up to six-and-a-half hours yesterday when air-conditioning units failed on trains because of the heat with the British Red Cross even turning up to give out free water. 

Smart meters

Are smart meters worth installing? The Telegraph reports:

Are you fed up with your smart energy meter? Mike O’Brien is. He used to use one of the devices, 53 million of which are due to be rolled out across the country by the end of 2020. “I had an early version,” Mr O’Brien told The Telegraph this week. “After a while I barely looked at it, didn’t use it.”
The difference between you and Mike O’Brien, however, is that in 2008 Mike O’Brien was Minister of State for Energy at the newly-created, Ed Miliband-led Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), which launched Britain’s smart meter revolution – the biggest and most expensive in the world.

The Mail issues a warning.

Energy giants can use smart meters to cut the power supply to homes and force customers to pay their bill up front.
The Daily Mail can reveal that suppliers have the power to switch the new digital devices to a pre-payment setting without visiting the house.
This would force the homeowner to top up their account before they use any gas or electricity – and if their balance runs out, their power could automatically be shut off.
More than 11 million smart meters have been installed across the country as part of a national upgrade programme ordered by the Government.

Rats

The Sun reports on a huge plague of huge rats.

A COLOSSAL plague of rats is spreading through the UK and wreaking havoc as a result of the longest heatwave in nearly 50 years.
These disease-ridden rodents can grow up to four feet long – twice the size of a typical house cat – and have been stealing entire loaves of bread and getting into houses via toilets after swimming through sewers.
Experts say there could now be as many as 120 million rats in the UK – and believe that the number of rodents has risen alarmingly in recent weeks as they gnaw on excess food rubbish warmed by weeks of sun and early-ripened fruit.
Rat expert Prof Steve Belmain said: “The heat is increasing the rodents’ activity.”

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