Brexit

Many of the media haven’t got their acts together yet but the Sun reports the PM’s plan for a meeting next week.

BORIS Johnson and the EU Commission chief will exchange the first blows in post-Brexit trade talks in London next week.
The PM will meet Ursula von der Leyen at No10 on Wednesday.
It comes hours after she gives a speech on Brussels’ vision for the future partnership.
Their meeting will represent the opening salvo of 11 frantic months of negotiations and is set to lay bare the chasm between the two sides.
In the morning Mrs von der Leyen will speak at the London School of Economics on the EU’s hope for a close relationship.

Project Fear

The Express reports a death.

PROJECT Fear has been completely dismantled following analysis released today showing Britain’s economy is not only soaring – but has also surpassed Germany’s during Brexit negotiations and a major General Election.
Analysis released this afternoon has revealed house prices in the UK has surged by 1.4 percent and that Britons are paying back more than they borrow on their credit cards for the first time in six years. The delightful analysis comes after three years of the depressing Project Fear campaign from the Remain side of the Brexit row had forecast house prices would plummet, a crippling recession and that consumers either facing a mountain of debt or cutting back on spending any money altogether.

Northern Ireland

But there are still problems with the government at Stormont, says the Telegraph.

Talks to break Northern Ireland’s political deadlock have been described as “slow and frustrating” as pessimism set in over the chance of a deal.
Discussions between the five main parties resumed on Thursday after being paused over Christmas.
Meetings took place with Julian Smith, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Kellie Armstrong from the Alliance Party said: “Today has been a slow and frustrating day” while the UUP leader Steven Aiken said he did not want to give “false optimism” over achieving a deal.

BBC News reports a call by the DUP.

The DUP is seeking a “fair and balanced deal”, according to party leader Arlene Foster, as talks to break Northern Ireland’s political deadlock continue.
Discussions between the five main parties resumed on Thursday after being paused over the Christmas holidays.
On Friday, Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said there would be an Irish language act as part of any deal to restore Stormont.
However, Mrs Foster said Mrs O’Neill was repeating her “red lines”.
“I would prefer to look for common ground to where we’re going for the executive,” she said.

iNews reports the parties are still trying.

The Democratic Unionist Party is to make a last-ditch attempt to amend the Government’s Brexit bill when MPs return to Parliament next week.
Despite such efforts being doomed to failure, the DUP, along with other Northern Irish parties, will table amendments to the legislation in a bid to alter key facets of the Northern Ireland protocol within the withdrawal agreement.
Having secured a commanding 87-seat working majority after the general election, Boris Johnson is likely to see his divorce deal voted through the Commons with ease, with any such amendments having little to no chance of succeeding.

Labour Party

Candidates to take over from Jeremy Corbyn are emerging.  The Times reports on Jess Phillips.

Jess Phillips, the Labour MP, said that she knew how to speak to the “hearts” of voters as she launched her bid to lead the party.
The Birmingham Yardley MP criticised Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, saying the party had to prove that people “can trust us again, to work with them to make their areas, their lives . . . better”. The outspoken politician told The Times she rejected the idea that Labour’s next leader had to be a woman to mark a clean break with the past, as some have suggested.

As does the Express.

BACKBENCHER Jess Phillips has launched her Labour leadership bid with a stinging attack on Jeremy Corbyn. The outspoken Remainer lashed out over the “woeful response” to the anti-Semitism crisis that engulfed the party as well as its fudged Brexit policy.
She said that voters no longer trust Labour, which suffered its worst electoral result since 1935. Miss Phillips, who has never held a frontbench nor a senior parliamentary role since being elected MP Birmingham Yardley in 2015, claimed she is the straight-talking candidate who can win back working-class support. She said: “Against a Prime Minister who blusters and lies, Labour needs a leader who will speak truth – to both the party and the country.”

The Independent also highlights Lisa Nandy.

The race to lead the Labour party doubled in size last night as both Jess Phillips and Lisa Nandy announced their intention to take over the role from Jeremy Corbyn.
Both appealing to restore faith in both the party and politics at large, Ms Philips put forward her case in a slick video posted to Twitter, while Ms Nandy set out her argument in a letter to her local newspaper.
The third and fourth candidates to put their names forward now join Corbyn-era frontbenchers Clive Lewis and Emily Thornberry in the battle to take on the leadership following the worst election defeat for the party since 1935.

In another story about the party, iNews reports a call for Scottish Labour to detach itself.

Scottish Labour should break away from the UK-wide party, according to one of its most senior figures – a sign Labour is in serious trouble on both sides of the border.
Monica Lennon, an MSP who is Labour’s health spokesperson at Holyrood, claimed the Scottish party  should take more control over its own affairs. It comes as leader Richard Leonard launches an internal review ahead of next year’s Scottish Parliament elections.

Criminal justice

The PM is changing the way crimes are investigates, says the Times.

Prosecutors could be given the power to direct police investigations under plans for a “once in a generation” overhaul of the criminal justice system.
Boris Johnson has committed to establishing a royal commission on the criminal justice process, to be launched as soon as next month.
The Times has been told that the commission will examine the procurator fiscal model in Scotland, in which prosecutors have the power to direct police investigations into serious crimes. Prosecutors have similar powers in France.

Veganism

A judge’s decision on veganism is reported in the Times.

Ethical vegans are protected from discrimination under equality laws, a judge ruled yesterday in the case of an activist who says he was sacked for his beliefs.
The decision has deep implications for employers and society, with lawyers suggesting the Bank of England may now be open to challenge for issuing banknotes unsuitable for use by vegans.
The test case was brought by Jordi Casamitjana, 55, an animal rights campaigner who claims he was dismissed as an official at the League Against Cruel Sports over his veganism. The charity, where at least half the staff are believed to be vegetarian or vegan, insists his sacking was for gross misconduct and nothing to do with his beliefs. The full case will be heard next month.

The Sun says the judge has now protected the belief in law.

VEGANISM is a “philosophical belief” and protects you from discrimination, a judge has ruled.
An employment tribunal found that ethical veganism is therefore protected by law.
Jordi Casamitjana said he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports after raising concerns that its pension fund was being invested into companies involved in animal testing.
He claims he was unfairly disciplined for making this disclosure and the decision to axe him was because of his philosophical belief in ethical veganism.

But could the ruling affect other areas?  The Telegraph claims it could spark legal challenges.

The Bank of England could face a legal challenge from vegans over its use of animal fats in banknotes, lawyers warned after a landmark ruling on Friday.
An employment judge found that holding a sincere belief in “ethical veganism” should be given the same legal protection under the Equality Act as that given to Christians, Jews and Muslims.
The legal team defending the vegan said after the hearing that animal rights activists could now even try to obtain a judicial review into whether the Bank of England’s use of tallow in £5 and £10 notes constitutes indirect discrimination against their devout beliefs.

But a television guest has been criticised, reports Yahoo News.

This Morning viewers have slammed a guest for being “rude” as a debate on veganism spiralled out of control live on air.
Things got very heated on the ITV show on Friday morning, which was being presented by Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford, when two guests disagreed immensely on Veganuary.
As vegan Joey Armstrong and meat-eater Rachel Carrie debated on the movement, which sees people go animal-product free for the entire month of January, Langsford was forced to stepped in.
As Armstrong spoke over Carrie during the segment the Loose Women anchor intervened and said: “Joey, you seem very angry about this. It almost seems like you can’t listen to the opposing view.”

Foreign aid

We’re still pouring money into corrupt countries, says the Mail.

British aid to the world’s most corrupt countries has risen by more than a third in five years, figures reveal.
Payments to the 20 worst states totalled almost £1.5billion in 2018 – up from £1.1billion in 2014.
The £400million increase comes despite warnings that money channelled to corrupt nations risks being wasted, stolen or seized by terrorists.
The Department for International Development (Dfid) insists it has ‘zero tolerance’ to corruption and adopts extensive measures to prevent taxpayers’ money falling into the wrong hands. In the worst cases, funds are channelled through aid agencies rather than handed to governments to avoid money being siphoned off by corrupt officials.

Smoking

EU law will see the end of menthol cigarettes and hand-rollers, reports the Mail.

All menthol cigarettes will be banned in the UK from 2020 after strict new legislation comes into force.
The ban will cover menthol cigarettes, rolling tobacco and ‘skinny’ cigarettes and will be put in place in May this year.
Public health officials hope the move will deter young people from smoking and reduce numbers picking up the habit.
Experts claim menthol and other flavoured cigarettes make smoking more appealing to non-smokers because they relax the airways and take away the severity of the smoke.

Prison

Criminals are still getting just a slap on the wrist, even if they have committed multiple offences, says the Telegraph.

Repeat offenders are being spared prison sentences despite committing up to 60 previous offences, new research shows, as former Tory ministers led calls for them to be given automatic longer jail terms.
Thieves, fraudsters, robbers and violent offenders who have assaulted police officers are among those who have avoided jail despite repeatedly committing the same offence before courts finally send them to prison.
The data, from the Ministry of Justice for the years 2016 to 2018, shows that the highest number of previous convictions and cautions before an offender received a custodial sentence was 60 for theft. In 2016, the highest was 53 and in 2018 it was 38.

Rail travel

Strikes on the railways have forced the rail companies to retrain their staff, reports the Times.

One of the country’s biggest train operators has been forced to cancel hundreds of trains because staff spent so long on strike that they had to be retrained.
South Western Railway ran a reduced service yesterday and today despite the end of a month-long strike by union members over the role of guards.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) walked out for almost the whole of December in protest over the introduction of new trains in which the driver opens and closes the carriage doors.

The transport boss is looking at whether train operators should lose their franchise, says the Guardian.

The transport secretary is facing calls to set out his plans for the future of Northern rail, after suggesting he could strip the train operator of its franchise.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Thursday, Grant Shapps said he had written a “request for proposal” in the autumn, starting a process in which Northern could lose the franchise or be given a short-term contract.
He added: “I’m simply not prepared to have the service on Northern to carry on as it is and I’m taking action.”

Iran

The assassination of an Iranian general by the US is covered in several of the media.  The Telegraph says:

Donald Trump said he was not seeking a war with Iran, or “regime change,” after assassinating the country’s top general in an audacious drone strike.
The US president said he had acted to prevent a plot against America by General Qassim Soleimani, who he called a “sick monster”and “the number one terrorist anywhere in the world.”
Mr Trump said: “We took action last night to stop a war, we did not take action to start a war.

The Mail says that may not be the outcome.

Donald Trump on Friday said he did not order the death of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani to start a war but to stop one.
‘We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,’ the president said in brief remarks at Mar-a-Lago, where he is wrapping up his holiday stay at the Winter White House.
The death of the top Iranian security and intelligence officer has sparked concern that tension will escalate in the Middle East and caused U.S. officials to brace for possible retaliatory attacks.

The UK was not warned in advance, says BBC News.

Boris Johnson was not warned about the US airstrike in Iraq that killed a top Iranian general, the BBC understands.
The UK has 400 troops based in the Middle East and works alongside US forces in the region.
But President Donald Trump did not tell the UK PM about the attack he ordered that killed Qasem Soleimani on Friday.

But still we approve of the killing, says the Independent.

The British government has appeared to back the US killing of an Iranian general, branding the target an “aggressive threat”.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called for calm following the American drone strike near the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, which killed Qassem Soleimani, who was visiting the city.
The strike, ordered by Donald Trump, appears to have dragged the two countries towards a deepening conflict – with Iran’s leader pledging “revenge” for the “criminal” attack.

The Labour leader disagrees in the Mirror.

Jeremy Corbyn today urged the UK to stand up to the “belligerent” US after the assassination of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
The outgoing Labour leader said there must be restraint on both sides but warned the airstrike was “an extremely serious and dangerous escalation of conflict in the Middle East”.
And he said further conflict “can only bring further misery to the region” after the 2003 Iraq War, which he opposed.

The US is sending more troops to the area, says the Times.

The United States was rushing 3,000 troops to the Middle East last night as Iran vowed “severe revenge” for the assassination of its most celebrated commander, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad.
The Pentagon said that the soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division would be joining the 750 sent to Kuwait this week. Americans were advised by the State Department to leave Iraq as analysts warned that the killing of the Iranian general was the riskiest US move since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Iran has promised it will retaliate, reports the Mirror.

Iran has vowed ‘crushing revenge’ on the US for the airstrike ‘assassination’ of Major General Qassem Soleimani.
Defence minister Amir Hatami, who is also top commander of the elite Quds, said: “A crushing revenge will be taken for Soleimani’s unjust assassination.
“We will take revenge from all those involved and responsible for his assassination.”
Maj Gen Soleimani was killed in a drone airstrike on Baghdad airport by US forces and US forces in the region have been warned about possible retribution.

And the threat extends to the UK’s troops, reports the Telegraph.

British troops in Iraq are at greater risk after the US airstrike that killed Iran’s military chief, a former Foreign Office minister has warned, as the US embassy in Baghdad urges Americans to leave Iraq. Former Middle East minister Alistair Burt said the drone attack which killed General Qassim Soleimani was “extremely serious”. Donald Trump has defended his decision to assassinate Soleimani, who he said was responsible for “thousands” of American deaths and “plotting to kill many more”.
By the time of his tweet, it had already emerged US lawmakers were not told in advance of the attack.

The Mail says we should expect revenge.

Britain is braced for a revenge attack from Iran  following Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate the nation’s top general.
Security officials fear that UK citizens in the Gulf – or our troops stationed in the region – could be in the firing line.
They are also preparing for a massive cyber-attack to avenge the killing of General Qassem Soleimani. He was blown up by missiles from a US drone after he touched down at Baghdad airport early yesterday morning.
Mr Trump last night claimed that Soleimani was the ‘number one terrorist in the world’ and had been behind attacks in Britain.

And iNews says our armies are on standby.

Britain’s armed forces have been put on standby amid escalating tensions in the Middle East following the US assassination of a senior Iranian general in Iraq.
The Princess of Wales Regiment, which has just returned to Cyprus from a tour of Afghanistan, has had all leave cancelled in the wake of the Trump-ordered missile attack.

Air travel

Planes could fly like the birds, says the Times.

Flocks of planes could soon be winging their way together across the oceans in the manner of migrating geese.
Airbus, the European manufacturer, believes that automated flight technology is mature enough to exploit the V-shaped formation that birds use to gain lift from the neighbour in front, saving wing-flapping effort as they cover long distances.
Within six months, two wide-body A350s are to make a long-haul formation flight to prove that so-called “wake energy retrieval” can be safe and reliable.

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