Brexit

In an exclusive report, the Express claims remainer mandarins actively tried to thwart Brexit.

CIVIL servants in a department crucial to Britain’s departure from the EU ignored IT problems and were “happy to see the system fail” because they hated Brexit, a whistleblower has claimed.
The allegations made by a former contractor to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) who worked in the EU Exit unit of the department. The whistleblower, who worked in IT, said that a new computer service contract was put in place after the 2017 election. But it was a downgrade unable to deal with the department’s existing work, let alone the increased demands of Brexit, he claimed.
The fresh workload from Brexit included fishing licences and control of rare materials like ivory among nine new major responsibilities.
The whistleblower, who was based at Defra’s Digital Data and Technology Services (DDTS) department in Reading, said that as a result of him raising concerns about the computer system which is used to deliver Defra’s responsibilities a contract extension was cancelled and he was blacklisted from government work.
He also claimed that senior managers in Defra did not hide their contempt for Brexit and Boris Johnson, insulting the Prime Minister in front of junior employees when he appeared on departmental television screens during the election calling the Prime Minister a “w*****, bulls****** and twat”.

Trade talks

Talks between the EU and the UK are not going well, even though they haven’t actually started yet, reports the Telegraph.

Britain has accused the EU of being in disarray in its approach to the post-Brexit trade talks, stepping up a war of words between the two sides.
A week before the first round of formal talks in Brussels, a source close to the negotiations claimed that EU countries appeared “divided” and were “distracted” by issues such as securing the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece, rather than focusing on the “important decisions”.
The claim escalates a propaganda war between Downing Street and Brussels, which saw the two sides engage in a public row last week over the type of trade deal that the UK could strike with the EU.
This week, senior ministers will sign off on the UK’s list of demands for the negotiations in a meeting of the Cabinet’s “exit strategy”, or XS, committee on Tuesday, with the paper due to be published online on Thursday.

The Express says the UK has mocked the EU.

DOWNING Street has mocked the European Union for its bizarre behaviour in the run-up to Brexit trade talks.
Sources close to Prime Minister Boris Johnson point to the EU’s delay in publishing its negotiation mandate and last week’s chaos over its budget. The recent suggestion by the EU that the Elgin Marbles could be part of a price of a trade deal has been dismissed out of hand. And last night a source close to the British negotiations said: “On the UK side, progress has been remarkably smooth, with a clear decision-making framework in place and a sense of unity among ministers.
“By contrast, the EU seems divided, distracted by other issues like marbles, instead of the important decisions on what our trading relationship will actually look like. The new plan is for them to approve their mandate on February 25 but it is anyone’s guess whether they will.”

And the Mail reports the French president’s doubts on the talks.

Emmanuel Macron has cast doubt on whether Boris Johnson can secure a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU by December.
The French President predicted fisheries will be a likely sticking point when negotiators from Whitehall and Brussels lock horns next month.
He added that tough talk from Downing Street, which has promised to rip up any arrangement which shackles the UK to the bloc’s rule book, could scupper a deal being reached in the tight time-frame.
Speaking at a fishing and farmers market in Paris today, Macron said: ‘It’s going to be tense because they are very tough…

BBC News reports he said the negotiations will be tense.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he is “not sure” a UK-EU trade deal will be struck by 31 December, the end of the Brexit transition period.
Mr Macron said negotiations starting in March will be “tense”, with fishing rights a key point of contention.
It comes as the UK government signalled it would publish its mandate for the trade deal later this week.

The Express reports a warning by the EU ambassador.

BRITAIN has been warned by a top EU official not to be “dramatic” as tensions continue to mount in Brexit negotiations between the UK and Brussels.
João Vale de Almeida, the EU ambassador to the UK, issued the warning after Boris Johnson’s Brexit negotiator David Frost rejected Brussels’ demand for Britain to follow EU laws in a “level playing field”. Mr Vale de Almeida called for both sides to “manage expectations” and “focus on the real issues”. The 63-year-old said: “It’s about positioning, it’s about managing expectation.

Covid-19

A couple who have appeared on TV from their quarantined cruise ship are not doing well, says the Times.

A British couple diagnosed with coronavirus after 16 days in quarantine on board the Princess Diamond cruise ship are in a “really bad way” after contracting pneumonia.
David and Sally Abel, who became famous after posting updates from their cabin via YouTube and Facebook, are in isolation in a “prison-like” hospital in Japan. David is in a “very serious” condition, his son Stephen said.
Expressing fury over the “next to useless” efforts of the Foreign Office, relatives appealed to Donald Trump to help repatriate the couple, who were on the cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary. In a message to the US president via Twitter, Stephen said: “Need help getting my mum and dad out of Japan with coronavirus. UK government are not helping us.

The Mail describes them as being ‘in a bad way’.

A British couple who were diagnosed with coronavirus on board the bug-riddled Diamond Princess ship are ‘in a bad way’ after contracting pneumonia.
David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, have now been moved to a ‘prison’-like hospital in Japan with the lung infection which is a known deadly complication of the deadly virus.
The couple told their son Stephen Abel that they are in a hospital room with no shower or bathing facilities which is only provided with basic paper towels.

But those who are brought back to the UK are being driven by un-masked drivers, reports the Mail.

Coronavirus bus drivers still haven’t worn protective hazmat suits in Britain as they drove 32 British and European cruise passengers wearing face masks to two-week quarantine.
Exposed drivers and medical officers were pictured taking the tourists, who were on-board the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess, on the 217-mile trip to Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral after their evacuation flight touched down in Boscombe Down, Wiltshire, this morning.
Bus drivers in France wore virus-blocking face masks as they drove 34 French citizens evacuated from Wuhan to quarantine yesterday, while drivers in Japan and Canada were seen wearing the protective masks as they drove passengers from the doomed vessel.

The Sun reports that the virus has spread outside China.

A SURGE in untraceable clusters of coronavirus patients outside China has caused experts to warn that “containment methods” may not be working.
Hot spots are emerging around the world – including in South Korea, Singapore and Iran – while authorities are having issues locating the source of each outbreak.
These new clusters are leading to the jump in cases outside the epicentre in China with the overall death toll now at 2,362.
Experts fear that the virus – which has infected 78,000 people – is spreading too quickly for tried-and-tested techniques to stop it.

And a top Italian has criticised his government’s handling of the outbreak, says Breitbart.

Populist Italian Senator Matteo Salvini slammed the leftist government’s handling of the coronavirus as 14 new cases were confirmed in Lombardy and two more in Veneto.
Salvini made his statements on Friday, slamming the leftist Italian coalition after the first case of the coronavirus was revealed in Codogno, Lombardy.
“I think of the controls on who enters and leaves Italy: obviously something is not working,” Salvini said in comments reported by Il Giornale.

Football matches have been postponed, says ITV News

Three Serie A football matches scheduled for Sunday in the northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto have been postponed after the deaths of two people from coronavirus.
On orders from the government, the Italian league games called off were: Inter Milan v Sampdoria, Atalanta v Sassuolo and Hellas Verona v Cagliari.
Three other matches in Genoa, Turin and Rome on Sunday are going ahead as scheduled.

The Telegraph claims testing is to be introduced in the UK.

“Drive-thru” coronavirus testing is to be introduced on the NHS – with suspected cases swabbed in their own cars.
The new scheme is part of efforts to relieve pressure on ambulance and hospital services, amid concern they could soon be overwhelmed by the number of tests they are carrying out.
It comes as around 32 Britons and other European nationals, who spent weeks trapped on a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan, returned to the UK to spend a fortnight in quarantine in the Wirral.

Ireland

Will there be checks on goods between Britain and Northern Ireland?  The Times reports on the plans.

Boris Johnson’s Brexit team has been ordered to draw up plans to “get around” the Northern Ireland protocol in the Brexit withdrawal agreement so the prime minister can play hardball with Brussels over trade.
Officials in Taskforce Europe, run by Johnson’s EU negotiator David Frost, are working in secret on proposals to ensure that there do not need to be checks on goods passing from Britain to Northern Ireland.
They believe the new attorney-general, Suella Braverman, might have to give new legal advice to justify the move.

HoL

Too many peers are being elected reports Yahoo News.

The government is facing a fresh bid to overturn the ”absurd and indefensible” system of electing hereditary peers that swell numbers in the House of Lords.
Labour peer Lord Grocott will bring forward a bill to scrap by-elections for hereditary members of the House of Lords, a bizarre custom where seats are doled out to aristocrats through a poll of only a handful of voters.
Former prime minister Tony Blair abolished the majority of hereditary peerages in 1999 but more than 90 people with inherited titles remain, accounting for around 12 per cent of the House of Lords.
A temporary solution was put in place if these peers were sacked, died or quit, allowing a successor to be voted in by members of their own party.

And they’re paying themselves more money, reports the Times.

Peers paid themselves almost one-third more last year just as the size of the House of Lords is set to swell to its largest in two decades.
Analysis by The Sunday Times found that the cost of peers’ expenses and daily attendance allowance rose by 29% in the year to last March to £23m.
In a triple hit for taxpayers: The average tax-free payment was £30,827, higher than the median salary of a UK worker, while 31 lords claimed more in expenses than the standard take-home pay of an MP;  Peers are set to receive an above average pay rise of 3.1%, taking their daily payment for attending to £323;

The Sun also has a report on Lords’ money.

MEMBERS of the House of Lords paid themselves almost one third more last year, an investigation has revealed.
Peers’ expenses and daily attendance allowance soared 29 per cent to £23million in the year to last March.
The spending scandal comes just as the Lords is set to swell to its largest in two decades.
One peer, former Labour minister Lord Cunningham, 80, claimed £79,437 last year.
He was not on any committees, despite checking in for his allowance on 159 of a possible 161 days.
Another, Lord Paul, claimed £47,885 in expenses, despite his family having a £2billion fortune.

EU

Meanwhile, the European Union could be turning into ‘big brother’ says the Mail.

The European Union is accused of seeking to create a network of national police facial recognition databases that could lead to ‘politically motivated surveillance’.
Leaked internal documents obtained by The Intercept allegedly indicate that police forces from 10 EU member-states led by Austria had called for laws introducing and interconnecting facial recognition databases in every member-state.
The report was produced as part of conversations on expanding the mandate of the Prüm Convention, which allows for DNA-sharing between countries.
It calls for Europol to play a role in exchanging facial recognition and other biometric data with non-EU member states, giving concern to the notion that the network would be connected to similar databases in the United States.

And Breitbart compares the Irish T-shop to a soiled rag.

To the surprise of literally no one, the European Union has discarded Irish leader Leo Varadkar like a soiled rag now that he is no longer of any use to it.
Varadkar, you will remember, was for a brief period the EU’s golden boy — its brightest hope of sabotaging Brexit thanks to his ingenious ruse of making customs arrangements on the Irish border the sticking point of negotiations.
As Liam Halligan pointed out here, the Irish “backstop” issue appeared suddenly and from nowhere — largely as a consequence of the meddling wannabe big-boy Varadkar becoming taioseach (prime minister).
It was only in June 2017, when May lost her majority, becoming reliant on the [Democratic Unionist Party], and Varadkar replaced Kenny, that the Irish border hit the headlines. Brussels then saw an opportunity to raise the political stakes by asserting the “impossibility” of avoiding “a hard border” unless Britain stayed in the Customs Union.

Trident

The Independent runs a leaked report into the prospect of a replacement to the Trident programme.

The UK government has committed to a multibillion-pound replacement of its nuclear warheads, the Pentagon has revealed – before British ministers had announced the plans or informed parliament.
Two American defence officials seemingly jumped the gun by disclosing details of Trident renewal – which will be supported by US technology – in committee hearings earlier this month, it has emerged.
Strategic Command Admiral Charles Richard told a Senate hearing last week that a replacement warhead called W93 or Mk7 was needed in the US.
He added: “This effort will also support a parallel replacement warhead programme in the United Kingdom whose nuclear deterrent plays an absolutely vital role in Nato’s overall defence posture.”

AI

The Star claims the Royal Navy is planning to use artificial intelligence.

Navy chiefs are planning a fleet of “killer” robot ships which can think for themselves, we can reveal.
They will have stealth technology, advanced radar, lasers and rail-guns capable of firing shells at 4,500mph.
The vessels will use artificial intelligence – computerised brains – to work out tactics far more quickly than humans.
Scientists say they will operate on their own or from a control room on shore – or act as mother ships to a fleet of smaller craft designed to overwhelm conventional ships.
The Royal Navy says humans would set the limits of a battle and let the ships do the rest.

Flooding

How much cash is being poured into flooded areas?  The Times reports:

The Environment Agency is to rewrite its controversial flood defence funding formula after claims that it pours cash into England’s richest regions, mostly in the south, at the expense of poorer flood-prone areas mainly in the north.
The formula is criticised for favouring the southeast because it is based on property values. It means up to 60% of the £2.6bn flood defence funding from 2015 to 2021 will be spent around London — despite the deluges hitting towns in the Pennines, Yorkshire Dales and Herefordshire in recent weeks during storms Ciara and Dennis. Many are still flooded.
Now the formula is to be rewritten to focus more on protecting people’s health — so property values will be less important.

And the Sun claims there’s a lot of money going to flooding abroad.

ALMOST £8million of British taxpayers’ money has gone to flood defence schemes in countries abroad in the past four years, a Sun on Sunday probe has found.
Yesterday angry locals in flood-ravaged Pontypridd in South Wales hit out at our shock findings — saying they have had no help.
The Government has splurged the millions on projects as part of our controversial Foreign Aid budget.
One initiative in Brazil, which aims to improve the quality of flood–related data, has received £360,000. And £1.5million has funded a study on how to help protect people from flooding in India — which has a £3billion space programme.

Child sexual grooming

Cases of child sexual exploitation are being covered up, reports Yahoo News.

The government is refusing to release official research on the characteristics of grooming gangs, claiming it is not in the “public interest”.
Survivors accused ministers of making “empty promises”, while a man who prosecuted abusers in Rochdale called for the Home Office to “show some courage and publish” its findings.
It comes after The Independent revealed that almost 19,000 suspected child sexual exploitation victims  were identified by local authorities in just one year, sparking renewed calls for prevention efforts.
Sajid Javid promised the review as home secretary in July 2018, pledging that there would be “no no-go areas of inquiry”.
“I will not let cultural or political sensitivities get in the way of understanding the problem and doing something about it,” he said at the time.
“We know that in these recent high profile cases, where people convicted have been disproportionately from a Pakistani background.
“I’ve instructed my officials to explore the particular contexts and characteristics of these types of gangs.”

Inheritance tax

Avoidance of IHT is being investigated, says City AM.

HM Revenue & Customs has implemented a secret unit to investigate the use of family investment companies (FIC) by the very wealthy to avoid paying inheritance tax.
It puts family offices with a combined total of more than $1tn in assets within its sights.
The tax authority set up the team in April last year amid growing concern that the wealthy avoid paying tax through sophisticated legal loopholes and was first reported by the Financial Times.
The unit is targeting FICs, which are increasingly being used as vehicles to hold stocks and other assets.
It means the tax on dividends is paid as corporation tax instead of personal income tax, which means lower rates according to lawyers.
If children are brought in as co-shareholders, then inheritance taxes can be reduced in some cases.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email