Catalonia

Today’s big news is the chaos in Catalonia. The Times says:

The Spanish government was preparing to charge Catalonia’s leaders with rebellion last night after the region declared independence in a dramatic escalation of the country’s political crisis.
Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, said that he would sack the entire Catalan government, close all ministries in Barcelona, dissolve the regional assembly and order new elections to be held on December 21. Within minutes of his announcement, loyalists waving the Spanish flag broke into a Catalan radio station in Barcelona.
Police had to prevent separatists and loyalists from clashing in Barcelona last night. Tens of thousands of people poured into the city’s central square, dancing, singing and calling for the Spanish flag to be taken down.

The Sun reports violence.

VIOLENT clashes broke out on the streets of Barcelona last night after Catalonia’s controversial declaration of independence – which was proclaimed illegal just hours later.
A masked Catalan separatist was filmed punching a middle-aged man in the face dropping him to the ground in street brawls across the city after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced the sacking of the regional government, the same night it had announced its independence.
Spain’s leader had attempted to seize control of the rebel region by announcing snap elections on December 21 in an attempt to “restore normality”, after the controversial independence motion was passed in the 135-strong assembly by 60 votes.
Announcing the new elections, Mr Rajoy said: “We have decided to sack the Catalan government. Central government will assume the powers of the Catalan administration.”

The Star says the central government has dismissed local politicians.

The Spanish government has sacked the cabinet of the breakaway “republic” and dissolved the Catalan parliament after it voted to declare independence today.
Madrid has called a snap election in the region for December 21 in a bid to draw a line under Spain’s worst political crisis in 40 years.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said: “We believe it is urgent to listen to Catalan citizens, to all of them, so that they can decide their future and nobody can act outside the law on their behalf.”
Thousands of people took to the Barcelona streets to celebrate after the vote was passed, with opposition legislators abstaining.
But the Spainish senate voted for the return of direct rule in Catalonia, which PM Rajoy had promised.

ITV News also reports on the demonstrations.

Spain has taken direct control of Catalonia after dissolving its Parliament and sacking the region’s defiant separatist government.
Rival rallies were held on Friday night after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced he was calling a regional election for December 21 and appealed for calm, insisting the rule of law would be restored in the region.
The central government’s move came just hours after it approved direct rule over Catalonia in response to the declaration of independence.
The Spanish Senate approved proposals to trigger Article 155 of the constitution giving Madrid control over Barcelona, and allowing it to take “all measures necessary” to intervene directly in the running of an autonomous region in the event of a crisis.
This is the first time it has been used.

The Express speculates on how this will affect the EU.

CATALONIA’S declaration of independence from Spain could be “the foundation for what will happen across the EU”, a top economist has said.
The Catalan regional Parliament voted to declare independence from Spain on Friday taking the nation’s worst political crisis in four decades to a new level.
This has resulted in investors selling stocks and government bonds after Madrid’s financial market was hit with the news.
The Government in Madrid has refused to recognise Catalonia’s declaration and warned direct rule would be immediately imposed – by force if necessary.
Following the news, the Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy announced he fired the entire Catalan government, including the region’s president Carles Puigdemont.

And the Mirror reports a call for Catalonians to take to the streets in protest.

Catalan separatists have urged their followers to “fill the streets” after the region’s lawmakers voted to declare independence from Spain.
Catalonia’s regional parliament today voted in favour of forming a new republic following this month’s controversial independence referendum.
But politicians opposed to independence left the parliament chamber before the vote took place.
There were 70 votes in favour of declaring independence with 10 against and two blank ballots.
Madrid responded to the vote by approving proposals to take control of Catalonia, according to reports, with an emergency meeting of the government scheduled for 4pm.

But the British government will not accept the declaration of independence, says the Mail.

Britain ‘does not and will not’ recognise Catalonia’s declaration of independence, the Prime Minister said today.
Spain stands on the brink of erupting into violence after the region voted to declare itself free from Spanish rule.
But the Spanish Parliament in Madrid responded by voting to reimpose direct rule on the region.
In a statement this afternoon, Mrs May’s official spokesperson made it clear that Britain will not endorse the Catalan vote.
The spokesperson said: ‘The UK does not and will not recognise the Unilateral Declaration of Independence made by the Catalan regional parliament. 

The Independent also reports our government’s position.

Theresa May has said the UK “does not recognise” the Catalan parliament’s declaration of independence.
In a statement released by Downing Street the Prime Minister said: “The UK does not and will not recognise the Unilateral Declaration of Independence made by the Catalan regional parliament. It is based on a vote that was declared illegal by the Spanish courts.
“We continue to want to see the rule of law upheld, the Spanish Constitution respected, and Spanish unity preserved.”

BBC News claims the independence vote was illegal.

The UK will not recognise the Catalan parliament’s declaration of independence, Downing Street says.
Theresa May’s official spokesman said the declaration was based on a vote that had been declared illegal.
The Scottish government said it understood and respected Catalonia’s position.
The Catalan regional parliament has voted to declare independence from Spain, while the Spanish parliament has approved direct rule over the region.
The UK prime minister’s spokesman said in a statement: “The UK does not and will not recognise the unilateral declaration of independence made by the Catalan regional parliament.

EU

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Europe, the Telegraph claims the EU is cracking up.

The EU’s most senior official warned that “more cracks” were emerging in the bloc on Friday after the Catalan parliament declared independence from Spain, plunging the country into political and economic turmoil.
Madrid swiftly responded to the vote by dissolving the Catalan parliament and dismissing Carles Puigdemont as president of Catalonia and his entire government.
Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, announced that regional elections would be held in December and said the unprecedented act of imposing direct rule on the regional was needed to “recover normality”.
The national police may be deployed to bring Catalonia under Madrid’s control.

The Express has an upbeat story about businesses in the EU.

EUROPEAN companies who want a good trade deal with Britain will wield increasing “influence” over politicians as the Brexit negotiations drag on, a top business leader said today.
Former Volvo Vice-President Garry Rowley told express.co.uk that exporters based inside the EU will push for a “pragmatic and frictionless” solution to customs and trade beyond 2019.
He said European companies are desperate for their leaders to secure a “smooth, equitable” Brexit agreement to protect the huge volume of trade they do with the UK.
And he described the deadlocked talks as a “time bomb that will ultimately have to be defused”, saying uncertainty would lead business on both sides of the Channel to take “conservative investment decisions”. 

But it seems the UK will be owed billions of pounds for decades, says the Independent.

The European Investment Bank will still owe the UK billions of pounds for decades after the country leaves the EU, the institution’s chief has said.
Alexander Stubb said Britain would not get its £3.1 billion, 16 per cent stake back in full until 2054.
The UK, along with the other 27 EU nations, have paid taxpayers money into the EIB to capitalise it. The bank makes loans at low rates to fund infrastructure and other projects, including major schemes in the UK.
Britain’s share is the largest, and it is equal in size to Italy, France, and Germany’s.

The Sun also reports on our money.

FURY erupted yesterday after a top Eurocrat said billions in taxpayer cash will be locked in a Brussels bank for 37 years.
The European Investment Bank chief said £3billion was tied up in long-term loans.
Vice president Alexander Stubb warned Britain could lose a further £30billion if projects sanctioned by the bank “turn sour”.
Mr Stubb said: “I will do everything in my power to alleviate the pain, but the economic facts are just such that there are no ­winners in Brexit.” States set up the EIB in 1958 to make loans at rates below commercial banks. The UK has a 16 per cent stake.

BBC News also has the story.

Billions of euros of British taxpayers’ money could remain locked into an EU bank for more than thirty years after Brexit, the UK has been warned.
Alexander Stubb, vice president of the European Investment Bank – in which the UK is a 16% shareholder – said it would not be fully repaid until 2054.
He described Brexit as a “travesty” but denied the move was a punishment.
“The EIB has leveraged the economy of the UK many, many fold over the years,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
The UK has 3.5bn euros (£3.1bn) of capital at the bank and a House of Lords report said the UK’s investment could be worth 10.1bn (£8.9bn) euros taking into account reserves and profits.

Another story covered by BBC News concerns the Common Agricultural policy.

The UK is seeking to leave the EU Common Agricultural Policy in March 2019, Scotland Office minister Lord Duncan has said.
Speaking at a National Farmers Union Scotland conference, he said the UK was pushing to split subsidy payments from any transitional Brexit deal.
Lord Duncan said this would mean farmers being paid from a UK pot.
Scottish Brexit minister Michael Russell said the move could restrict the sale of farm produce to the EU.
UK ministers have said the level of funding to farmers after the UK formally leaves the EU would be guaranteed until 2022.

But there is still a huge question over how EU countries will cover the financial shortfall after Brexit, says the Express.

HUGE divisions between EU member states over how to plug the mammoth budget black hole the bloc is facing after Brexit are exposed today by a bombshell internal dossier.
A dynamite briefing shows how different countries are openly at loggerheads over whether to maintain the club’s gargantuan spending levels once it loses its second biggest net contributor.
EU budget chiefs have admitted they will be down by around £10 billion a year once Britain has quit the bloc in 2019, meaning countries will either have to pay more or receive less.
British MEP Steven Woolfe told express.co.uk Brussels faces a “huge political headache” over the crisis, as it will have to get all 27 leaders to agree to a set of unpalatable compromises.
The Commission insists that it should not be required to cut its cloth accordingly by reducing the size of the budget, and instead wants member states to make up half of the lost cash. 

Brexit

Westmonster has the result of a poll showing that the support for Brexit is growing.

Despite the constant claims from Remoaners that the public want a watered down Brexit or the whole thing abandoned completely, a new poll shows that in in fact it is those opposing the UK’s EU exit who remain very much on the fringes of public opinion.
YouGov found that just 10% think the government should opt for a so-called ‘softer’ Brexit, just 19% want a second referendum and only a pitiful 12% want to abandon Brexit.
Even amongst Remain voters, only 26% want to see Brexit abandoned compared to 33% of Remainers who want the government to get on with it one way or another. Just 1% of Leave voters want to see Brexit abandoned.
Meanwhile 45% of Brits want the government to carry on with current plans to exit the Brussels bloc, whilst 14% say they don’t know.
Reality check for those MPs who are still trying to pretend that the country isn’t largely united behind Britain’s Brexit future.

Parliament

BBC News carries a story about a debate on Proportional Representation.

Another bid to scrap the UK’s first-past-the-post voting system will be debated by MPs on Monday.
More than 100,000 people signed a petition to adopt proportional representation for general elections.
Campaigners argue that the current system is meant to deliver decisive results but the 2010 and 2017 general elections resulted in hung parliaments.
The government says the 2011 AV referendum shows the public do not want to change first- past-the-post.
Under first-past-the-post (FPTP), the candidate who receives the most votes in a local constituency wins a seat in the House of Commons.
This means the number of seats each political party wins does not reflect its share of the vote nationally – in 2015, UKIP picked up 3.9m votes but only won one seat.

NHS

In other news, the Mail reports an NHS in crisis.

Hospitals are so understaffed they may have to turn away elderly patients seriously ill with flu this winter, an analysis reveals today.
The country is facing a devastating outbreak of a new strain of the illness, which could kill thousands and fuel a winter crisis in the NHS.
Several hospitals surveyed by the Mail this week said they are too understaffed to take in any extra patients. Some have launched desperate searches for more nurses abroad.
One Trust admitted patients turning up with flu at A&E this winter will be ‘eyeballed’ by nurses at the front door and sent to an on-site GP if they did not look seriously ill.
Another has warned it has ‘significant concern for patient safety’ ahead of the flu season. Separately, the NHS yesterday revealed nine in ten hospital bosses are ‘concerned’ they will not cope while 62 per cent are ‘extremely concerned’.

And the Mail also reports that our old people are not being cared for properly in care homes and hospitals.

At least two elderly patients a week die of hunger or thirst in Britain’s hospitals and care homes, official figures reveal.
More than 100 over 65s died because of dehydration or malnutrition last year, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.
Despite a general decrease in the number of deaths caused by care failures in recent years, the figures are now rising.
Former Liberal Democrat care minister Norman Lamb said the figures were evidence of a ‘social care crisis’, while a charity called for more to be done to protect the elderly.

Sexual harassment

It seems the ‘Weinstein’ problem could extend to Parliament, says the Guardian.

Senior MPs have raised complaints that allegations of sexual harassment are still not being taken seriously enough by their parties and whips despite years of warnings about inappropriate behaviour in Westminster, the Guardian has learned.
MPs made their fears known to their parties after the Labour MP Jared O’Mara was suspended over allegations of misogynistic abuse, and parliamentary staff aired allegations of sexual harassment and assault on a private WhatsApp messaging group.
Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn called on Friday for any staff members who have experienced sexual harassment or abuse to contact the House of Commons authorities or police to make formal reports.

The Mirror also has the story.

MPs who engage in the abuse and sexual harassment of women must be held accountable for their actions, Jeremy Corbyn  will warn.
The Labour leader says a “warped and degrading culture” – where the abuse of women is accepted and normalised – is thriving in the corridors of power.
His warning will come as it was reported that four MPs, including a minister, had been caught up in allegations of sexual misconduct at Westminster.
The MPs, two Labour and two Conservative, have been accused of harassing or propositioning young women inappropriately according to The Times.
The Guardian also reported four MPs were involved in allegations of misconduct.
It was not clear if the papers are referring to the same individuals.

And Sky News also reports the Labour leader’s comments.

Jeremy Corbyn will accused Westminster of being home to a culture in which the abuse of women is accepted and normalised, in a speech on Saturday.
The Labour leader will say: “It is a warped and degrading culture that also exists and thrives in the corridors of power, including in Westminster.”
He will urge survivors of assault and harassment to report their experiences to authorities, arguing that the “problem doesn’t stop with those who make unwanted advances on women” but “extends to a culture that had tolerated abuse for far too long”.
Mr Corbyn will also say that MPs who sexually abuse and harass women will be held accountable for their actions.
His remarks come in the wake of reports of extensive sexual harassment around Westminster, including claims that four MPs, one of whom is a minister, have been accused of sexual misconduct.

BBC News claims those who harass should be punished.

MPs who abuse or sexually harass women must be “held to account”, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will say later.
M Corbyn will speak out against “a culture where the abuse of women has often been accepted and normalised,” including at Westminster.
It comes as Downing Street described  allegations of sexual harassment in politics as “deeply concerning”.
Mr Corbyn will also reject claims he was too slow to suspend a Labour MP for misogynistic and homophobic comments.

Air travel

Claims by the chancellor that air travel to Europe could come to a complete halt upon Brexit have been refuted in the Mail.

The boss of the company that owns British Airways has dismissed claims that flights could be grounded after Brexit.
In an apparent rebuke to the Chancellor yesterday, International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh said BA will continue to fly after Britain quits the EU in March 2019.
His comments came after Philip Hammond said it was ‘theoretically conceivable’ there could be no air traffic between the UK and Europe if there is no Brexit deal.
The Chancellor was slapped down by Cabinet colleagues and Mr Walsh, 56, said: ‘In terms of Brexit, there’ll be an outcome and we will continue to fly.
‘Whatever that is, we will manage our business without any difficulty… We’ll leave this to the politicians to resolve.
‘But I’m confident that there’ll be a comprehensive agreement between the UK and the EU on air travel.’

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