Legal advice

We all knew the PM’s divorce deal was a non-starter but contrary to her claims, it seems that legal advice confirms we’ll be stuck in a customs union, says the Times.

Britain would be trapped “indefinitely” in a customs union with Brussels if MPs back Theresa May’s Brexit deal, according to leaked details of the attorney-general’s legal advice, which the government has suppressed.
Senior ministers say the prime minister is refusing to publish the advice because it contains a stark passage that makes clear the UK could end up locked in a “backstop” arrangement with the European Union.
In a letter to cabinet ministers last month, the contents of which have been disclosed to The Sunday Times, Geoffrey Cox declared: “The protocol would endure indefinitely.” The government’s top law officer ruled that the only way Britain could escape the backstop would be to sign a new trade deal, which could take years.

BBC News reports that the opposition parties are ganging up on her.

Opposition parties plan to join forces in a bid to force the government to publish the full legal advice it received ahead of the Brexit agreement.
“All parties” would press for contempt of Parliament proceedings if MPs are not shown the advice, Labour’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer has said.
Theresa May has promised MPs only a “reasoned statement” on the legalities.
Many Brexiteers believe the Northern Ireland “backstop” provision offers the EU an effective veto on the UK leaving.
Mrs May insists the agreement’s legal text is clear that any backstop – keeping the UK under EU customs rules until a permanent trade deal was in place – would be temporary.
However, her former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab told the Sunday Times the backstop would last indefinitely – for as long as it takes to negotiate a new UK-EU relationship – “unless the EU allows us to exit”.
“The EU has a clear veto, even if the future negotiations stretch on for many years, or even if they break down and there is no realistic likelihood of us reaching agreement,” he is quoted as saying.
“That’s my view as a former international lawyer, but it is consistent if not identical with all the formal advice I received.”

The Sun also has the story.

BRITAIN would be locked “indefinitely” into the EU’s customs union if Theresa May’s Brexit deal proposal was passed, leaked documents of the attorney-general’s legal advice claim.
The details have been suppressed with senior ministers saying the Prime Minister has refused to publish the advice because it highlights that the UK could end up being trapped in a “backstop” arrangement with Brussels.
The Sunday Times claims it has seen the letter Geoffrey Cox wrote to cabinet ministers last month.
It says: “The protocol would endure indefinitely.”
The country’s top legal officer added that the only way the UK could get out of the backstop would be to sign a new trade agreement, which could take years.
But he said Britain would only stay trapped if those talks collapsed.

Opposition parties are lining up to force the government to publish the details, says the Telegraph.

The Democratic Unionist Party will join Labour and other opposition parties on Monday in a bid to force the Government to publish its legal advice on Brexit – a move that could delay the crucial vote on Theresa May’s plan.
In an explosive alliance that will rock the Government, Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster leader, Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrats’ Brexit spokesman, and Stephen Gethins, the SNP’s Europe spokesman, will write a joint letter to John Bercow, the House of Commons Speaker.
The letter will insist that the Government is in contempt of Parliament for failing to publish the full Brexit legal advice.

Sky News calls it a constitutional row.

A “historic constitutional row” over Brexit awaits Theresa May as she returns from the G20 summit.
Labour and opposition parties are threatening to launch proceedings for contempt of parliament unless legal advice given by the attorney general to the prime minister on her Brexit plan is published in full.
The DUP, which props up the government, is reportedly ready to sign a joint letter with them to the speaker of the House of Commons unless ministers back down.
The Commons vote on the withdrawal deal is in nine days’ time.
More than 100 of her own MPs have indicated to reporters they will vote against it, as a brutally timed ministerial resignation means the certainty of the deal passing is not strong.
Mrs May faces further headaches from Scotland’s parliament, Holyrood.
MSPs look set to declare in a debate that it would be “damaging for Scotland and the nations and regions of the UK” if her Brexit deal is waved through.
All parties, apart from the Conservatives, have united to put the joint motion forward for the debate at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday.

EU

It has emerged that France did not want the UK to join the EU, says the Express.

FRANCE did not want Britain to join the EU because of fears the Common Agricultural Policy – which hugely favoured French farmers – might be scrapped, it has been revealed.
Leading French politicians wrong-footed and deliberately slowed Britain’s accession to the EU – then called the EEC or Common Market – so that by the time the UK joined the bloc the price-fixing Common Agricultural Policy would be a done deal. And, despite some attempts to modernise the CAP, the move left Britain at a permanent disadvantage. In a celebrated biography of Tory leader Edward Heath writer Philip Ziegler said: “If Britain had become a member in mid-1961 it would have been in time to participate in the formulation of the Common Agricultural Policy instead of being confronted with a system largely devised to meet the needs of French farmers.”

Brexit

The Express calls the withdrawal deal a ‘turkey’.

BRITAIN will get a “Turkey deal for Christmas” and be unable to make trade agreements with the rest of the world unless MPs back Theresa May’s Brexit plans.
Senior figures of the government have told the Sunday Express that if MPs throw out the Prime Minister’s deal then the government is likely to put down an amendment that keeps Britain under Brussels rule in its customs union. Sources close to the Prime Minister believe that it will be the only way to “avoid crashing out with no deal” which government insiders say will be “a disaster” because “Britain is simply not ready for it”. The threat comes with opposition in the Commons hardening against the deal ahead of the meaningful vote on 11 December.
One minister referred to the proposal as “the Turkey deal for Christmas” because it mirrors Turkey’s relationship with the EU – stuck in its customs union and unable to make other trade deals without agreement from Brussels.
Senior Tories. including the party deputy chairman, have urged MPs to back the deal, saying if it failed, Brexit would be under threat.

And the Sun claims the anticipated cost of £39bn will soar.

THERESA May is signing off a “blank cheque” by agreeing to the Brexit divorce bill, a leading Brexiteer has warned.
The multi-billion payment to leave the EU is open to “uncertainties” as the expected £39 billion bill could be higher, it’s claimed.
The financial settlement agreed by the PM and the EU could vary, according to the National Audit Office.
They released a new document this week analysing Mrs May’s deal ahead of the meaningful vote on December 11th.
The final total could be affected by costs outside the settlement already agreed including access to EU agencies.
Risks are also associated with liabilities linked to the EU’s pension scheme which is a “particularly uncertain part” of the settlement.
There is also a fear that the exchange rate could cause UK costs to rise, as payments to the EU will be in euros after 2020.
The Treasury and Office of Budget Responsibility insist the payments will be between £35 billion and £39 billion.

Mrs May is still trying to sell the deal, says the Sun.

THE PM will make a last-ditch plea to Tory MPs over fireside whiskies and chats to save her Brexit deal — and her leadership.
Theresa May will see about half a dozen at a time in No10 or the Commons this week.
Mrs May returns from the G20 Argentina summit today — with nine days left to avoid a Commons massacre.
She said in Buenos Aires yesterday: “I’ll be talking with MPs and explaining to them why I believe this is a good deal.
“The next nine days are a really important time for our country.”
The PM said passing the deal would “take us to certainty — failure to do that would lead to uncertainty”.
Her charm offensive is seen as a bid to limit the scale of the defeat, currently set for triple figures.
But a senior Tory last night claimed No10 was living in “cloud cuckoo land” if it believed she could survive a loss of any size.

And Westmonster has a story about pro-deal leaflets being printed.

It looks like significant money has been pumped into leaflets promoting Theresa May’s EU deal, causing a backlash from pro-Brexit Tory MPs who aren’t happy.
Former Brexit Minister Steve Baker tweeted: “These dreadful leaflets are meeting with derision among colleague MPs. Plans are already afoot to deliver them direct to recycling centres.
“What a waste of donor money.”
Fellow Brexiteer MP Conor Burns wrote: “Very sorry to see Conservatives using precious money raised by volunteers and donors to produce these leaflets.
“The so-called ‘deal’ is not uniting the Party and we should not pretend all Conservatives support it.”

Labour Party

Meanwhile, the official opposition is gearing up for a second referendum, says the Guardian.

A powerful group inside Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet is urging Labour to be ready to campaign for a possible second Brexit referendum if Theresa May’s deal is defeated and the party cannot force a general election. The move comes amid signs that support for another public vote is widening at Westminster.
The shadow cabinet alliance pushing Labour to prepare for the option of a second public vote includes Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer, deputy leader Tom Watson, shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd and Richard Corbett, the leader of Labour MEPs in the European parliament.
Support for the idea from top Labour figures comes after shadow chancellor John McDonnell said last week that Labour could well end up backing another referendum, with the option to Remain in the European Union being on the ballot paper.
The
Observer can reveal that Starmer told a meeting of the shadow cabinet last Wednesday that Labour should be ready to “move quickly through the gears” to call a no-confidence vote in the government immediately if, as expected, May’s blueprint is defeated when MPs vote on it on 11 December.

And Reuters claims Labour will not do a deal with the ScoNats.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party has ruled out a deal with Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon that would deliver a second referendum on independence for Scotland as the price of her support for a Labour government, the Times newspaper reported.
Labour finance spokesman John McDonnell was quoted in Saturday’s Times as saying there would be no bartering with Sturgeon to win the support of her Scottish National Party (SNP) lawmakers.
“We wouldn’t have a deal with other political parties,” he said. “We believe we will win the next election with a handsome majority.”

Trade

It seems Mrs May also has problems with her trade envoys over her withdrawal deal, says the Sky News.

At least a third of MPs personally appointed as Theresa May’s global trade envoys will not back her EU withdrawal agreement, Sky News has learned.
Some of the MPs are privately warning the deal means the global trade agreements they are trying to help with are now “on hold” – something Mrs May denied when questioned by Sky News during the G20 summit in Argentina.
Sky News was contacted by one trade envoy accusing the prime minister of being “very disingenuous” after Mrs May was asked directly how such deals could work if there was a legal possibility of being in an effective customs union with the European Union under the Irish “backstop” arrangements.
She said such an arrangement would only be “temporary” but pointed to the multiple references in the political declaration to an “independent trade policy”.

Breitbart calls it the worst deal in history.

Theresa May’s “worst deal in history” with the European Union will be voted against by “at least a third and possibly up to half” of the 21 envoys she has appointed to support new trade deals after Brexit.
A number of the MPs approached Sky News, who understand that “at least seven, and as many as 10” of them will vote against the Brexit deal, denouncing her claim that it takes back control of Britain’s trade policy as “very disingenuous”.
The Prime Minister’s deal will see Britain remain effectively a non-voting EU member-state for a “transition” period of at least two years, which could be extended to four, with new trade deals prevented by the bloc’s Common Commercial Policy and Common External Tariff.
Even after this, the United Kingdom may find itself forced into a “single customs territory” covering goods and agri-products under the so-called “backstop”, which Mrs May has agreed Britain will not be allowed to leave without the EU’s agreement.

NHS

GP practices are closing at an alarming rate, says the Times.

Up to 3m patients are expected to lose their GP surgery within a year because of a shortage of doctors.
More than 350 practices face closure in England alone over the next 12 months, according to a survey of doctors for the Royal College of General Practitioners.
Doctors’ leaders, patients’ groups and MPs expressed alarm and warned that general practice was at “serious risk” of collapse.
Rising numbers of GPs are retiring early, becoming locums in the private sector, changing career or moving abroad.
As well as pressure to work longer hours and see more patients, the closures are being driven by GPs deciding to stop work when their pension pots exceed £1m and attract heavy taxes.

And the Times also has a story about mental health in new fathers.

Thousands of new fathers are to be offered screening and treatment for mental health problems on the NHS.
Help for anxious and depressed fathers will be part of the 10-year plan for the health service, which must decide how to spend the £20bn extra promised by Theresa May by 2022.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “These days dads and partners are rightly expected to be more hands-on, and NHS mental health services also need to step up and support families at times of extreme stress and anxiety.”
The move comes after warnings that men’s mental health was being overlooked.
One in five women suffer mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year after birth.

HS2

The boss of the high speed rail program doesn’t fancy his chances of keeping his job, says BBC News.

The chairman of the HS2 rail programme, Britain’s biggest infrastructure project, has told BBC News he expects to be sacked in the coming days.
Sir Terry Morgan, who took up the role only four months ago, has also been involved in London’s Crossrail project for the past decade.
Speaking to PM on Radio 4 he said there was disappointment at Westminster about the delays affecting Crossrail.
HS2 is the government’s £55.7bn planned high-speed rail network.
It will connect London to Birmingham and to Manchester and Leeds.
Critics of the project say it will damage the environment and is too expensive.
Crossrail, which is London’s £15bn project connecting landmarks like Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf, is delayed and is due to open nine months after its scheduled launch. It is also almost £600m over budget.

Education

Universities who offer very low leverls of teaching have been saved, says the Mail.

Plans to downgrade universities where students receive only a few hours of teaching each week have been quietly shelved.
A backlash from vice-chancellors has forced the higher education regulator to abandon its proposal to consider the amount of lectures and tutorials on offer when awarding new rankings for degree courses.
From next year, universities will be awarded either a gold, silver or bronze status for the quality of teaching offered in each degree subject. Factors that will influence the rating will include student satisfaction surveys and whether graduates go on to well-paid jobs.
But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that plans to take into account how many hours of teaching students get and the size of the classes have been abandoned by the Office for Students (OfS). The U-turn follows fierce opposition from university chiefs who argued that ‘quantity does not always equal quality’ and that independent study is an essential part of a degree.

And it seems fewer schools are arranging overseas trips because it’s too much bother, says the Mail.

Schools are abandoning foreign exchange trips because of the burden of doing background checks on the British host families, headteachers have warned.
The rules are designed to protect pupils from abusers, but their impact on exchange programmes has been described as ‘catastrophic’.
Many long-running schemes are being axed, with other UK schools accommodating foreign pupils in hotels or hostels, only allowing them to practise their language skills in hosts’ homes during the day.
According to the British Council, the proportion of independent schools running language exchange programmes has fallen from 77 per cent in 2014 to 53 per cent this year. Meanwhile, just 29 per cent of state schools run such schemes.
New Department for Education guidelines recommend that British schools ensure all adults in a host family undergo an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check before they take in a foreign pupil. The service uncovers criminal convictions and checks whether names are registered on any database which bars them from working with children.

Tax

We’re all paying more tax, says the Telegraph.

The tax burden on British households and businesses has reached a 50-year high, analysis shows.
Britain’s tax bill has hit a new high of 34.6  per cent, smashing through the 34.3  per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) seen in the early Sixties, according to historical data analysed for The Telegraph by the TaxPayers’ Alliance. It was as low as 32.7  per cent as recently as 2015.
The alliance fears that Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts show that the Treasury wants to keep the tax take at this level for the next five years.
Last night former Cabinet ministers described the figures as “shocking” and an “embarrassment”.

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