Brexit

The big news today is the speech Prime Mininster Theresa May is due to deliver on Tuesday. The Telegraph says:

Theresa May will gamble this week by siding with Eurosceptics and signalling she is prepared to take Britain out of the single market and customs union.
In her most significant Brexit speech since taking office, the Prime Minister will defy critics by indicating she is open to a clean break with the EU.
The intervention, which follows immense pressure to reveal her Brexit plans, is designed to reassure the public and reveal what she wants from talks.
However the speech risks exposing deep splits in the Tory Party over Europe as she finally details her vision for Britain’s future outside the EU.

The Independent claims Mrs May is heading for what has become known as a ‘hard’ Brexit.

The government is prepared to abandon the single market, customs union and the European Court of Justice in order to achieve a clean break with the EU, Theresa May is expected to say this week.
The Prime Minister will also call for “an end to the division” which has maintained a hold over the country since the referendum, in a speech which is expected to give the most detailed insight yet into her approach to the forthcoming talks with Brussels.
But the reported announcements – which indicate a hard Brexit – have worried Remain campaigners, who branded it as an “an incredibly reckless move” by the Prime Minister, and one which she did not have a proper mandate for.
Ms May is expected to say that the UK will regain full control of its borders, even at the price of single market membership, and leave the customs union in order to pursue international trade deals, the
Sunday Telegraph reported.

The Guardian also carries the story.

Theresa May is to announce that the government is prepared to accept a clean break with the EU in its negotiations for the UK’s departure. In a speech to be delivered on Tuesday, the prime minister will make clear that she is willing to sacrifice the UK’s membership of the single market and customs union in order to bring an end to freedom of movement.
An article in the Sunday Telegraph cites “sources familiar with the prime minister’s thinking” as saying that May is seeking to appease the Eurosceptic wing of her party by contemplating a “hard”, or “clean”, Brexit.
In the speech to an audience of diplomats at London’s Lancaster House May will hope to end months of speculation about her intentions by setting out her aims for Brexit.

Sky News goes into more detail.

Theresa May is expected to announce the UK is prepared to leave the single market, the customs union and European Court of Justice.
The PM’s willingness to give up membership of the single market will be made clear in a major speech at Lancaster House in London on Tuesday, according to the Sun on Sunday.
Her red lines will be an end to free movement from the EU and clearance to hold bilateral trade talks with other countries, which it is thought will not be achievable while still in the single market.
A Downing Street source told Sky News: “The issue of the single market and the customs union will be answered on Tuesday when the Prime Minister sets out her negotiations.”

And the Mail claims she may risk a party rift.

For months, Theresa May has remained tight-lipped about her priorities for leaving the EU, rarely offering more insight than ‘Brexit means Brexit.’
But that will all change in a landmark speech this week in which she is expected to outline that Britain will leave the single market and customs union, if that is the only way to regain control of our borders.
She risks creating a void in the Conservative party by effectively opting for a ‘hard Brexit’, which many senior figures, including Tories, fear will be detrimental to the economy.
It will also come as a blow to other countries on the continent after the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, admitted earlier this week that a ‘special relationship’ was needed with London in order to maintain financial stability for other bloc members.

The Express expects the PM to take a hard line with our European neighbours.

THERESA MAY is to get tough with Brussels saying that Britain will quit the single market and customs union if we cannot take back control of our borders.
In a hard-hitting speech outlining the Government’s negotiating position the Prime Minister will insist that ending free movement and reclaiming our sovereignty are “red lines” that she is not prepared to cross.
In a bid to pre-empt the imminent Supreme Court ruling on Article 50, Mrs 
May will signal a hard exit from the EU by insisting that “we need to get on and make Brexit happen”.
Hitting back at critics who have accused her of “muddled thinking” she will make the optimistic case for building “a truly Global Britain”.

The Times claims Mrs May will seek a partnership with the EU.

Theresa May will announce that Britain is seeking a clean and hard Brexit in a speech this week that will promise to create a “strong new partnership” with the European Union.
The prime minister will finally lay her cards on the table, making clear that the UK is set to pull out of the single market and the European customs union in order to regain control of immigration and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
A Downing Street source said last night that May had “gone for the full works”, although the prime minister’s staff admitted her words were likely to cause a “market correction” that could lead to a fresh fall in the pound.

EU

Across the Channel, it look like the EU is also starting to talk tough. The Express says:

ANGELA Merkel drew up Europe’s economic battle lines today as she threatened to unleash a Brexit tax war on Britain.
The German Chancellor unveiled plans to roll out a standardised tax rate across the EU in an effort to pinch lucrative business from the UK.
Mrs Merkel said she expected Downing Street to slash corporation tax after Britain leaves the EU and warned Brussels could respond in kind.
The remarks were a direct response to the Government’s decision at the end of last year to cut corporation tax to 17 per cent.
And the PM has hinted that she will consider slashing the rate even further in the future, making Britain one of the most competitive countries globally.
European leaders have previously stated that they will not get involved in a “race to the bottom” with Britain over business taxes post-Brexit.

But the Telegraph reports a softer stance.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has said he wants to secure easy access to the City of London for countries in the bloc, in the first sign of a softer stance.
Michel Barnier reportedly told MEPs that he wanted a “special” relationship between the 27 remaining EU countries and Britain’s financial centre after Brexit.
The comments chime with warnings by Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, who said this week that the EU’s financial stability is more at risk from Brexit than the UK.
It suggests that the EU will be willing to compromise with Britain at the negotiating table to make sure their financial institutions are not locked out of the City.

The Independent claims some of the countries in the bloc will not play ball.

The deputy prime minister of the Netherlands has said his country will block any post-Brexit EU trade deal with the UK unless it can agree on “firmly tackling” tax avoidance.
Lodewijk Asscher, leader of the Dutch Labour party, fears a “race to the bottom” led by a British Conservative government, which would have negative ramifications across Europe.
This is reminiscent of the fears of many Remain campaigners, who believe the government could try to entice businesses to the UK after EU withdrawal by cutting taxes and regulation.
Critics say this could lead to the UK being turned into a low regulation tax haven – which would also affect Europe, particularly if companies chose to take advantage of the tax savings.

NHS

In other news, the problems in the National Health Service are still causing alarm. The Times reports cancer surgery has had to be cancelled.

The winter crisis in the NHS is forcing cancellation of an increasing number of cancer operations, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons has revealed.
Clare Marx said hospitals across the UK had begun having to cancel cancer surgery in December and the trend had accelerated since the new year.
“Historically, they [cancer operations] have been protected due to their urgent nature. However, feedback from our members suggests that since the start of January, a large number of hospitals across the UK are now cancelling cancer surgery,” Marx told The Observer.
“It is heartbreaking for a surgeon to have to explain to a patient who has cancer that their operation has had to be cancelled as there are no beds available.”

And the Mail claims a poll has shown that the service should be bolstered by foreign aid cash.

Voters have demanded that Britain’s bloated foreign aid budget should be slashed so that the crisis-ridden NHS can be given the billions of pounds it desperately needs.
More than three-quarters of people want to divert the flood of cash sent overseas so that it can fund hospitals struggling to cope through the worst crisis for 15 years.
The finding comes in an exclusive poll for The Mail on Sunday – the first taken during the crisis gripping the NHS – which reveals that:

  • An overwhelming 78 per cent of voters want cuts to Britain’s wasteful £12.4 billion annual aid budget, and the money diverted to the Health Service instead;

The Mirror claims the problems amount to a national emergency.

The Prime Minister has been urged to wake up to the “national emergency” in our hospitals after it emerged at least 65 out of 152 trusts declared major emergencies in the first week of 2017.
Experts fear the total number is even higher but Theresa May had insisted only a “small number” of hospitals were struggling, while Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there were problems in “one or two” areas.
Mark Holland, of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “So far this winter we have not seen exceptional winter conditions to put undue pressure on the NHS .
“Hence, we conclude our services cannot cope with a normal winter. When will the PM accept we have a crisis? We must accept that we now face a national emergency in the NHS in England.”

ITV News has a similar story.

A “large number” of hospitals are cancelling cancer operations, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons has said, revealing the depth of the NHS funding crisis.
Clare Marx said cancer surgery was no longer protected in the health service, and that hospitals had been cancelling operations since the start of the year.
She told The Observer: “Historically, they have been protected due to their urgent nature.
“However, feedback from our members suggests that since the start of January, a large number of hospitals across the UK are now cancelling cancer surgery.
“It is increasingly clear that no part of the system and no patient is immune from the pressure the NHS is experiencing.”

And BBC News reports a comment by the doctors’ union.

The doctors’ union, the BMA, has accused the government of making GPs in England scapegoats for the pressure on A&E departments.
The government says GPs must try harder to stay open from 08:00 to 20:00, seven days a week, so fewer patients are forced to seek care at hospitals.
It warned GPs risk losing extra funding if they fail to meet their commitments to longer surgery opening times.
But the BMA and Labour said underfunding of the NHS was to blame.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul of the BMA told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have got a very serious problem that we don’t have the capacity in general practice.
“The crisis in the NHS won’t be solved by scapegoating or deflecting blame on to Gps.”
One in three GP practices were reporting unfilled vacancies, while eight in 10 said they were unable to provide safe care, he added.

Parliament

BBC News has a story about the renovations needed to the Palace of Westminster.

MPs have launched an inquiry into the planned renovation of the Palace of Westminster amid concerns it may not provide value for money.
Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury select committee, said insufficient evidence had been produced to justify the “hugely expensive restoration project”.
The project could cost up to £4bn and take five to eight years to complete.
MPs and peers had warned the palace risks a “crisis” without repairs.
Parts of the Palace of Westminster are so badly affected by asbestos, fragile stonework and ageing electrics and wiring, it has been said the Grade I-listed building would be knocked down if it was not protected.

ITV News also reports the problems.

MPs are set to launch an inquiry into the multi-billion overhaul of the Palace of Westminster, citing huge costs as a concern.
Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Commons Treasury Committee, said there was insufficient evidence to justify the restoration plan, which could cost up to £4 billion.
Under the proposals set out in a feasibility report by experts including Deloitte, MPs and peers would need to move out of their base while the work, which is expected to last at least five years, is carried out.
Mr Tyrie said that the committee would be looking at whether both the Lords and the Commons needed to “decant” from the palace simultaneously, or whether the work could be done over a longer period with less disruption.
“The restoration and renewal programme is estimated to cost between #3.5 and £4 billion over five to eight years,” Mr Tyrie said.

Scotland

Independence for Scots is still being considered, reports the Express.

A NUMBER of prominent SNP politicians are due to have a high profile presence at a conference looking at independence for Scotland, it has been revealed.
Around 600 activists have gathered for the sold-out Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) which is billed as “a conference in preparation for the next independence referendum”.
The one day event is taking place in Glasgow at the Radisson Blu Hotel.
The first speaker is the SNP Communities Secretary Angela Constance, 46.
Also speaking are SNP MP Tommy Sheppard and former SNP Enterprise Minister Jim Mather, a member of the party’s commission reviewing the economics of independence.
Scottish Green co-conveners Patrick Harvie MSP and Maggie Chapman will also address the event alongside Radical Independence founder Jonathon Shafi, and Robin McAlpine, creator of the Common Weal think tank which aims to influence SNP policy.

Strikes

The Sun reports on a plan to ask commuters to drive trains.

STRIKE-hit rail bosses plan to beat union militants by hiring an army of part-time train drivers.
Long-suffering commuters could earn extra cash by taking the controls of local services in their spare time.
A national recruitment campaign will be launched tomorrow in a Government-backed plan to combat costly disruption.
Last week’s strikes on Southern Rail by drivers’ union Aslef over driver-only trains led to the cancellation of 2,300 services.
Another three days of strikes are planned for next week as unions’ battle over train staffing rolls on.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling wants to boost the rail workforce to prevent companies being held to ransom by unions.
Southern will now embark on Britain’s biggest ever driver training programme, aimed at maintaining a pool of 200 trainees.

And the Independent reports a call for a national strike.

Acting on the Brexit vote without consulting Parliament is not legitimate as only 37 per cent of the population voted to leave the EU – and the Government is “enacting a kind of coup” by trying to do so, A C Grayling has argued.
In an exclusive interview with
The Independent, the philosopher dubbed the ‘brains of remain’ said a general strike should be called if the Government attempted to trigger Article 50 without a parliamentary vote or a second referendum.
“The effort to talk about hard Brexit, soft Brexit and what’s going to happen after Brexit is an attempt to normalise acceptance of leaving the EU,” he said. “We’re nowhere near, and shouldn’t be anywhere near such a decision.”
“We haven’t seen Parliament play any role at all yet in discussing or making any decision with what happened in connection with the referendum.”

Labour Party

The party’s problems continue to multiply, says the Times.

Dozens of Labour MPs are ready to follow Tristram Hunt out of politics, one of the party’s leading moderates warned this weekend.
Many are fed up with life “on the reserve bench of the reserve bench” under Jeremy Corbyn and are ready to resign, according to the former shadow cabinet minister who is playing a leading role in resisting the hard-left leadership.
Moderates could set up their own party if they were deselected by Corbyn supporters, the senior MP warned: “Deselection is the point at which you will not just get people to leave and cause by-elections to get new jobs, you will get bitterness and determination to fight back.

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