Brexit

There’s going to be a big party at the end of the month, says the Express.

NIGEL Farage is planning the party of all parties in Parliament Square costing £100,000 and aims to invite 10,000 Brexiteers to mark the moment the UK leaves the EU.
The epic gathering will be in Westminster “under the watchful eye” of Churchill’s statue, the Daily Telegraph reports. It is due to take place on Brexit Day, also known as Friday January 31 at 11pm when campaigners say London’s Big Ben will chime to mark British independence from the bloc after a relentless four years of negotiations. Richard Tice, Brexit Party chairman, and Mr Farage are applying to the Greater London Assembly (GLA) to get a fireworks display for the occasion similar to the one on New Year’s Eve.
Mr Farage said: “Jan 31 is a moment to celebrate, when the Establishment have been beaten by the people.
“We will invite people from all parties, business figures – they will be asked to join the celebration.
“There will be a few short speeches but they won’t be very political.
“It will be celebratory. There will be music and singing. It will be a good-natured, upbeat, optimistic genuine celebration with no direct political edge whatsoever.”

Breitbart also reports on the plans.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage is planning a 10,000-strong, £100,000 “Brexit Celebration Party” to mark Britain’s formal exit from the European Union on January 31st 2020.
If approved, the event will be held before the Palace of Westminster, seat of the House of Commons and House of Lords, on Parliament Square, with attendees regaled by comedians, musicians, and a fireworks display.

The Telegraph reports on the celebrations.

Nigel Farage is planning to host a £100,000 “Brexit Celebration Party” in Parliament Square, with fireworks, bands and comedians, to mark the moment Britain leaves the European Union later this month.
The party in Westminster “under the watchful eye” of Churchill’s statue on Friday Jan 31 will culminate at 11pm when campaigners and MPs hope Big Ben will ‘bong’ to mark the moment that the UK brings down the curtain on its 45 year membership of the EU.
Richard Tice, the Brexit Party chairman and Mr Farage are applying to the Greater London Assembly – which licenses events on the square – to stage the event which could culminate with a fireworks display similar to New Years Eve.

And the Express has a heart-warming story about the House of Lords.

PEERS have abandoned any hope of stopping Brexit.
The House of Lords inflicted repeated defeats on the previous government but the scale of Boris Johnson’s election victory has transformed politics.
Legislation to ensure the country leaves the EU on January 31 is expected to clear the Commons this week and then go for scrutiny in the Upper House.
The Conservatives do not have a majority in the Lords but peers recognise the scale of the Tory success makes it politically impossible to try to sabotage Brexit.

Farming

Cabinet ministers have been forced into voting to cut their cash, says the Telegraph.

Two Cabinet ministers and the Farming minister are set to vote make themselves poorer when they back Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans in the House of Commons this week.
Chief Whip Mark Spencer, Scottish secretary Alister Jack and Defra minister George Eustice benefit from the European Union’s lucrative Common Agricultural Policy scheme – which the UK will leave after Brexit. There are a further dozen MPs – many of them Conservative – who have interests in farming businesses but do not say if they receive CAP funding, according to a Parliamentary register.

The Times has an interesting story about ‘vertical farming’.

The countryside faces transformation as farmers seek permission to replace their fields with giant, multistorey greenhouses where they can grow crops all year round with no concern for droughts, floods or frosts.
Agricultural companies have announced plans for at least 50 “vertical farms”, with crops in stacked containers. They can produce tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peas and other salad crops throughout the year. Farmers harvest crops weeks after planting instead of tending them for months outside.

Civil service

The PM’s chief adviser is criticised in the Guardian.

Dominic Cummings should stop denigrating senior civil servants by lumping them together as part of the same Oxbridge-educated, dinner party elite if he wants to build the necessary support in Whitehall for ambitious reforms to the government machine, one of the country’s most respected former mandarins has warned.
Sir David Normington served as permanent secretary at the Department for Education and then the Home Office between 2001 and 2010; from 2011 to 2016 he was first civil service commissioner, in charge of ensuring the effective working and neutrality of Whitehall.

Eurozone

The EU is deteriorating, says the Telegraph.

The eurozone has suffered the weakest post-crisis recovery after a lost decade for swathes of the ailing region, with analysts predicting the economic malaise will extend into the 2020s.
The currency bloc has lagged every other major developed economy since the global recovery started in 2009 as a chasm between the performance of northern and southern eurozone countries emerged.
Real GDP rose by 15pc over the period, nearly half that of the US and behind other developed economies, including the UK and even sluggish Japan. The output of southern eurozone economies – Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain – collectively inched up just 4pc as tensions simmer with their stronger northern counterparts over policy.

Labour leadership

There’s another contender for the opposition’s top job, says the Telegraph.

Sir Keir Starmer will launch his Labour leadership bid  in Leave-voting Stevenage today, as he calls on his party to regain the trust of voters but without retreating from “the radicalism of the past few years”.
The shadow Brexit secretary, who is an early frontrunner in the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn, will make his pitch to lead the party, becoming the fifth MP to enter the leadership contest.

House of Lords

Plans to replace the upper house are being consider by the PM, reports the Times.

Boris Johnson is examining plans to scrap the House of Lords and replace it with a second chamber that will give a bigger say in Westminster to the north of England.
Senior Tories say ministers are looking at plans to reform the Lords and make it largely elected to give a voice to “the nations and regions”.
A plan drawn up by Lord Salisbury and published last year is now “on the desk” of Johnson’s team.

NHS

Waiting times to see your GP are getting longer, reports the Times.

Eleven million patients have endured waits of more than three weeks to see a GP since Boris Johnson pledged to eradicate such delays, The Sunday Times can reveal.
In his first speech in Downing Street last July the prime minister said: “My job is to make sure you don’t have to wait three weeks to see your GP.”
However, in the four months for which figures are available since then, 11.3m patients have waited longer than three weeks. Of those, 5.6m waited more than a month.

HS2

A report on the High Speed train line says costs are soaring, says the Telegraph.

Taxpayers are on course to make a £40 billion loss on HS2 after Parliament was “misled” about its costs, according to the peer tasked by Boris Johnson with helping to lead a review of the scheme.
In an incendiary report submitted to the Prime Minister and seen by The Telegraph, Lord Berkeley states that there is “overwhelming evidence” that the rail line’s costs are “out of control” and that its benefits have been “overstated” by ministers and officials.

The Times reports that Parliament may have been misled.

The deputy head of an official review of HS2 has refused to sign its report because he says it is “fiddling” the numbers to let the high-speed rail project go ahead.
Lord Berkeley is to give ministers his own report, as he thinks the review he helped lead will exaggerate HS2’s benefits by assuming 18 trains an hour — a feat not managed by any high-speed service in the world.

Costs are out of control, says the Mail.

The cost of HS2 is ‘out of control’ and could result in a £40 billion loss for taxpayers, a report by the deputy chair of the project’s review panel has claimed.
Lord Tony Berkeley said he believes ‘Parliament was misled on the question of HS2 costs’ from the evidence he has seen, adding it is ‘highly unlikely’ the legislation would have passed if it had been given the ‘real costs figures by the Department of Transport’.
He added there is ‘overwhelming evidence’ that costs for the high-speed railway are ‘out of control’ in a report submitted to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Based on independent analysis, the Labour peer puts the cost of HS2 at around £108 billion and suggests taxpayers are on course to make a £40 billion loss on the project.

And the price is still going up, reports Sky News.

The cost of HS2 is “out of control” and could spiral to £107bn, according to the former deputy chairman of government’s independent review into the project.
Lord Tony Berkeley says that parliament would never have agreed to the high-speed rail line, due to connect London with the North and the Midlands, had they not been “misled” – and estimates the costs could now be three times the original estimate.
In a rogue report he has produced separately from the rest of the government’s independent review panel, he writes: “From the evidence I have seen, I believe that parliament was misled on the question of HS2 costs and that it is highly unlikely that, if it had been given the real cost figures by the Department of Transport, it would have passed the legislation to allow this project to proceed.”

Terrorism

Legal aid to fight extradition is examined in the Telegraph.

A foreign terror suspect who the security services believe was planning to carry out an Islamic State terror attack in London has been granted legal aid to claim asylum in the UK.
The man, who can only be named as 03, was detained in London two years ago in a counter-terrorism operation involving MI5 and Scotland Yard.
At his flat police found an Islamic State ‘passport’, manuals on fighting with the terror group, terrorism propaganda vowing to kill Westerners and a chilling mocked-up photograph of a terrorist holding a rifle and picture of a London Routemaster bus with the words ‘Sometimes you just got to get up and go.’

And a killer had also been granted aid, reports the Sun.

LONDON Bridge terrorist Usman Khan was given more than £350,000 in legal aid to be represented for being part of a group that plotted to bomb the city’s stock exchange.
The fanatic, 28, was specifically given £12,000 of taxpayers’ cash to appeal his sentence – allowing him to be free on licence from prison when he carried out the horrific attack.

Iran

Today’s big story is the response to the killing of a senior Iranian general by the US.

The Sun is one of the papers reporting the US president’s warning that any retaliation will be met with more killing.

DONALD Trump has warned Iran that it will attack 52 targets “very fast and very hard” if revenge is sought on the US.
The blistering warning comes after Iran today pinpointed 35 “key US targets” for revenge after its top general was assassinated – with America expecting retaliation “within weeks”.
Hours later, rockets were fired near the US Embassy in Baghdad and at an airbase housing American troops.
The two attacks came just hours after mourners chanted “death to America” at the funeral of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

ITV News says he posted his response on Twitter.

Donald Trump has threatened to strike 52 Iranian sites “very fast and very hard” if Tehran launches an attack on American forces or assets.
The US president warned Iran off any possible strikes after the Islamic Republic vowed to take revenge on the US following the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force.
Writing on Twitter, he wrote: “Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.
“The USA wants no more threats!”
The number of locations Trump has threatened to attack, 52, is the same as the number of American citizens which were seized by Iran in the US embassy in Tehran and held for more than a year between 1979 to 1981.

And the Mirror reports the threat of Iran’s ‘crushing revenge’ on the US.

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.”

The UK is involved in protecting its own people, says the Telegraph.

The Royal Navy was on Saturday night deployed in the Persian Gulf to “take all necessary steps to protect our ships and citizens” in the wake of Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate Iran’s top general Qassim Soleimani.
Ben Wallace, the Defence secretary said he had ordered HMS Montrose and HMS Defender – a Type 23 frigate and a Type 45 destroyer – to accompany British-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz.

The Times reports the orders given to our troops in the area.

British troops in Iraq are to be given greater firepower to protect themselves and guard British diplomats from revenge strikes by Iran after the assassination of the terror chief Qassem Soleimani.
More than 400 soldiers training local forces have been ordered to abandon their duties and switch to “force protection” after intelligence chiefs warned Boris Johnson that Britain risked being dragged into an “accidental war” between Iran and America.

And the Mail reports the instructions given to our soldiers.

Britain has ramped up its security in the Middle East and has given its troops in the region greater firepower, telling them to prepare for revenge strikes following the US drone attack on Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani.
As well as two warships being manoeuvered to accompany British-flagged oil tankers in the Gulf, more than 400 soldiers training local forces have been ordered to abandon duties and switch to ‘force protection’ and guard British diplomats and assets amid fears of an ‘accidental war’ between Iran and the US.
The soldiers will be handed heavier weapons and have been told to move from eight small bases in Iraq to large US-controlled compounds, although these sights are at risk of retaliation after an Iranian official said 35 US targets had already been identified in the region.

The Guardian says ships will be escorted by the Royal Navy in the area.

The Royal Navy will accompany ships through the Strait of Hormuz amid soaring tensions in the Middle East, following the US’s fatal drone strike on Iran’s top general.
The imminent move to protect UK-flagged ships came on Saturday as the Foreign Office was strengthening its travel warnings across the region as fears of all-out war heightened.
Tehran was vowing harsh retaliation after Donald Trump authorised the killing of Gen Qassem Suleimani, and the US dispatched 3,000 extra troops to Kuwait.

And cruise missiles aboard a submarine are ready for any further developments, says the Sun.

A ROYAL Navy nuclear-powered submarine armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles is in position to strike Iran if tensions give way to war in the Middle East.
Despite desperate attempts to de-escalate the stand-off between the US and Iran, Top Brass are working furiously to ensure Britain is ready to back America militarily if asked.Elite operatives from the SAS and SBS were also heading to Iraq braced for rescue missions, it was reported last night.
The death of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike on Thursday has sparked fears of a third Gulf War.

There’s a demo planned in London on Saturday, reports the Morning Star.

THE assassination of Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani, has raised tensions in the Middle East to boiling point, anti-war campaigners have warned.
Stop the War Coalition has called a demonstration outside Downing Street at 2pm on Saturday under the heading No War with Iran.

And the Independent quotes an ex-foreign secretary’s comments that Trump could have made a mistaken in ordering the assassination.

Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt says Donald Trump may have made a mistake in killing Iran’s top military commander, calling the action “extreme”.
The killing of Qassem Soleimani had created a “very risky situation” in the Middle East, a “dangerous game of chicken” in which both the US and Iran gamble on the other not starting a war, he warned.
Asked if the US president had “miscalculated” in  carrying out the airstrike on General Soleimani’s convoy at Baghdad airport, Mr Hunt replied: “Only time will tell.”

Computer hacking is in the minds of spooks, reports the Times.

GCHQ spies stepped up their monitoring of Tehran-backed hackers this weekend amid fears that Britain’s national infrastructure and government departments would be targeted in retaliation for the American drone strike that killed an Iranian military commander.
Iran is expected to deploy its hackers — deemed by Britain’s intelligence services to be in the “Champions League” of cyber-warfare — in response to the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.
The Iranian regime does not have the firepower to launch a conventional war against America, but the deployment of its cyber-troops would follow a warning by its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that a “harsh retaliation is awaiting”.

Breitbart reports that the revenge attacks could target Europe.

German Free Democratic Party (FDP) deputy parliamentary group leader Alexander Graf Lambsdorff has warned Iran could target Europe for retaliatory terror attacks after the killing of General Qasem Soleimani.
Mr Lambsdorff, the FPD’s foreign policy expert, said that the killing of the al-Quds unit head could spark retaliation in Europe, stating, “We have to expect attacks, terror, retaliation in Europe!”
He went on to label the slain Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps leader a “terrorist in uniform”, German tabloid Bild reports.

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