Archive for the ‘Customs Union’ Category

John McDonnell: Forcing a UK general election now ‘unlikely’

LONDON — Labour’s chances of forcing a general election to renegotiate Brexit are now “unlikely,” the party’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Wednesday.

The remarks, in a live POLITICO London Playbook interview Wednesday, suggest the opposition party is inching toward a compromise Brexit deal with the government — or a second referendum.

McDonnell said he agreed with the party’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer who said pushing for a general election was no longer a “credible option.” Starmer’s intervention sparked a sharp response from Jeremy Corbyn’s office, which insisted an early election remained the party’s “preferred option.”

Asked whether Starmer was right, McDonnell replied: “We’re still in the hope of a general election, but it’s unlikely, so, yeah, I think [he is].”

McDonnell’s remark suggests Labour’s options are narrowing as the clock ticks down to March 29, the scheduled date for Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Speaking to London Playbook editor Jack Blanchard, McDonnell said Theresa May was “floundering” and predicted parliament would soon take control of the process, forcing a softer Brexit on the government before voting it through before March 29.

“I think parliament is going to take it off her hands,” he said.

Referring to Labour’s demand for a permanent customs union as the price of its support for the EU withdrawal agreement, McDonnell said: “We think it could fly with parliament eventually.” He added: “Don’t underestimate the strength of feeling to prevent no deal.”

Labour’s Brexit policy calls for a customs union with the EU, but with the U.K. having a say over EU trade deals. Asked whether EU leaders had indicated to Labour that would be possible, McDonnell said he was seeking “a relationship with our European partners that reflects the size of our economy.”

He said he was encouraged by European Council President Donald Tusk welcoming Labour’s intervention, but admitted: “We’ve not had discussion in a way to enable us to say confidently that would be the case.”


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News review – Tuesday 12 February 2019

News review – Tuesday 12 February 2019

Brexit

Breitbart
Theresa May and her Remainer civil servants secretly sabotaged an offer made by the EU Council President Donald Tusk of a free trade deal exit from the EU because all they ever really wanted was Brexit In Name Only. Of the many things I’ve heard about the Establishment’s outrageous scheming to scupper Brexit this is by far the most damning – and it deserves much wider coverage. It was Martin Durkin (director of Brexit: the Movie) who drew my attention to it. Steve Baker MP is a member of the (ardently pro-Brexit) European Research Group. He was also – till he resigned in protest at Mrs May’s handling of the Brexit negotiations – a minister in the government’s Department for Exiting the European Union (DEXU). Baker made his revelation at the end of last month while appearing before an MP committee, in which he criticised the “governing class” for its deliberate attempts to thwart Brexit in defiance of the Referendum vote.

Guardian
Theresa May hopes to convince the House of Commons on Tuesday to give her another fortnight’s grace to keep pushing for changes to the Irish backstop – despite the insistence of Michel Barnier that it is Britain that must compromise. With 45 days to go until Britain is due by law to leave the EU, with or without a deal, the prime minister will address MPs about progress in the Brexit talks, No 10 announced on Monday. She is unlikely to signal any shift towards a closer future relationship with the EU.

Mail
Michel Barnier today vowed that the EU will not make any more concessions on the Brexit deal – insisting the UK must give ground. The chief negotiator launched a combative attack on the ‘negative’ British stance ahead of a meeting with Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay.   Meanwhile, Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel jibed that the UK was actually a ‘disunited kingdom’, accusing Eurosceptics of only being willing to say ‘no, no, no’. The intervention came as Theresa May desperately battles to find a way through the political deadlock, with less than seven weeks to go until the exit date.

Guardian
Michel Barnier has said “something has to give” on the British side of the negotiations if the Brexit impasse is to be broken. The EU’s chief negotiator insisted there was no question of Brussels giving in to Downing Street’s demands on the Irish backstop. “We’re waiting for clarity and movement from the United Kingdom,” Barnier told reporters after talks in Luxembourg with the country’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel.

Express
THE UK will fork out the full amount of the Brexit divorce bill if it doesn’t want to lose its face, an EU chief shockingly claimed. European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan said Britain’s credibility would be dealt a massive blow if it “reneged” on its promise of paying the £39bn divorce bill. When asked about the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal and without paying the exit bill, Mr Hogan told Politico: “Well that’s actually part of the divorce settlement, and I haven’t seen any divorce settlement actually ratified by the courts without actually observing or implementing the commitments already made.

Customs union

Telegraph
Theresa May has said she will not allow Britain to be part of the Customs Union  after Brexit following a backlash by Eurosceptic MPs and ministers. Downing Street attempted to defuse the row after the Prime Minister failed to rule out further talks on a customs union in a letter to Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader. Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, described Labour’s plan as a “dangerous delusion”, while Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, accused Mr Corbyn of trying to trap Mrs May into a “toxic” Brexit.

Express
THERESA May has hit back at Jeremy Corbyn’s demands for a soft Brexit, criticising Labour’s plan for a customs union and questioning the party’s commitment to ending free movement. The Prime Minister said she was “not clear” why the Labour leader was pushing for a continued customs union which would block Britain from striking its own trade deals. And she questioned whether Mr Corbyn’s call for “frictionless” trade would mean remaining in the single market and reneging on Labour’s commitment to end free movement.

Times
Senior Conservative Brexiteers warned Theresa May today that she must never negotiate with Labour on the party’s proposal for Britain to remain in a customs union with the European Union. Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, described Labour’s plan as a dangerous delusion and warned that it was “not workable”, while Boris Johnson accused Jeremy Corbyn of trying to trap the government in a toxic Brexit. The comments reflect concern among Brexiteers that Mrs May is preparing to concede too much ground to Labour in an attempt to win cross-party backing for her deal with Brussels.

Independent
Labour has called for MPs to be given a vote on a customs union with the EU, warning that Theresa May must be willing to shift her red lines if she wants her   Brexit deal ratified. The call by shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer came as the EU said there could be no progress until Britain moved its position, as UK ministers headed to Brussels on a mission to convince the bloc otherwise. Speaking on a visit to Dublin to meet with the Irish government, Mr Starmer said there was a majority for a close economic relationship “if you are prepared to try and find it”.

Guardian
Theresa May is to update MPs on her Brexit progress on Tuesday, a day earlier than previously announced, No 10 has said, while stressing the prime minister had completely ruled out Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal of a departure deal involving customs union membership. “We are absolutely clear on this: we’re not considering Jeremy Corbyn’s customs proposals; we’re not considering any proposals to remain in the customs union. We must have our own, independent trade policy,” May’s spokesman said.

Reuters
European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday British Prime Minister Theresa May should endorse a permanent customs union with the bloc – as proposed by the opposition Labour party – to break the impasse over their looming divorce. Barnier told a news conference in Luxembourg that time was “extremely short” to conclude a deal before Britain is due to leave the bloc on March 29.  He then met UK Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay for what both sides said were “constructive” talks in Brussels late on Monday.

Conservative Party

Sun
THERESA May is preparing to resign as PM this summer so she can influence who succeeds her, Cabinet ministers now believe. Under the suspected plan, Mrs May would call time on her Premiership shortly after finally delivering Brexit.  She will then set out a timetable for a new Tory leadership contest to end at the party’s annual conference in October. At least two senior figures in the Cabinet have come to that conclusion from hints the PM has personally given them, The Sun has been told. Mrs May’s suspected  thinking is that by going at a time of her own choosing and in a position of relative strength, she will be able to have some say over who the next Tory leader will be.

Mail
The Prime Minister will quit her job in the summer – just weeks after Brexit – according to members of her inner circle. The Conservative leader will call the leadership contest shortly after leaving the European UnionThe Sun reports, but remains hopeful she can pick her replacement to prevent a successful Boris Johnson bid. According to Cabinet ministers the Prime Minister has hinted to them personally she will trigger a Tory leadership race to end at the party’s annual conference in October.

Express
THERESA May is likely to resign as Prime Minister this summer, Cabinet ministers believe. Sources revealed that Mrs May will duck out after delivering Brexit and hopes to influence who succeeds her. The two senior figures suspect the resignation after the PM dropped them subtle hints, The Sun has been told. It is thought Mrs May’s chosen departure will give her the power to have some say over who the new Conservative leader will be. The plan is to spark a new Tory leadership contest which will end at the party’s annual conference in October.

Times
Theresa May would win a working majority if a general election were held today, according to YouGov modelling for The Times that correctly predicted the 2017 hung parliament. Labour is pushing for a general election but the new research suggests that this would backfire, with Jeremy Corbyn’s party losing 12 seats and the Tories gaining four. The shift would take the Tories to 321 seats, just enough for a working majority. There are 650 seats in the Commons but Sinn Fein’s seven MPs do not take their seats and the Speaker is not counted.

Mail
Theresa May would stay in power and win more seats if a general election was held today, a new poll shows. Labour’s push for an election would backfire because the Tories would win a working majority despite Brexit chaos, the research suggests. According to YouGov modelling that correctly predicted the 2017 hung parliament, Jeremy Corbyn’s party would lose 12 seats and the Tories would gain four. Such a result would take the Tories from 317 seats at the last general election to 321 – just enough for a working majority. Labour would drop from 262 to 250 seats.

Labour Party

Independent
Jeremy Corbyn vowed to “defeat” the European Union after accusing it of suppressing the British economy in a tub-thumping rally speech before he became party leader. The Labour MP claimed the EU had worked in cahoots with “the world’s bankers” in creating unemployment and called on all those campaigning for “peace, justice and socialism” to oppose the bloc. The emergence of the film follows that of another last week, in which Mr Corbyn warned of the EU becoming a “European Empire” which was creating a “military Frankenstein”.

Mail
Jeremy Corbyn called for the European Union to be ‘defeated’ in an explosive rally speech, it was revealed last night in previously unseen footage. The Labour leader lumped the EU in with bankers, describing them as ‘united in suppressing the economy and creating unemployment’. In comments which may give an insight into his real views, he told a Left-wing rally in 2010 that he would not be ‘silenced by these people’ but would ‘defeat them’.

Anti-semitism

Times
Almost 700 Labour members have been reported for antisemitism in the past ten months, with 12 expelled from the party. Another 44 quit when presented with evidence of the allegations against them, Jennie Formby, the party’s general secretary, said last night. Dame Margaret Hodge, a senior Labour MP who has been a victim of antisemitism, said that she did not believe the figures and that she had submitted nearly 200 complaints of serious abuse by party members since October.

Telegraph
Labour has received nearly 700 complaints of anti-Semitism in the past nine months but has expelled just 12 party activists, it was revealed on Monday.    Jennie Formby, the party’s general secretary, has bowed to the demands of MPs and published data which for the first time exposes the true extent of Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis. The disclosure has prompted a furious backlash among MPs, who have accused the Labour leadership of “shocking cowardice” after they failed to turn up to a meeting in Parliament to address their concerns.

Mail
Labour has expelled just 12 members for anti-Semitism after almost 700 accusations against party members it emerged tonight. Party general secretary Jennie Formby released the figures to MPs tonight a week after infuriating them by saying racism was impossible to eradicate entirely. Labour insisted the number of anti-Semites found equate to less than 0.1 per cent of members. But the figures are likely to fuel claims amid some Labour MPs that leader Jeremy Corbyn has been too slow to react to the anti-Semitism crisis.

BBC News
The Labour Party has received 673 complaints in 10 months alleging acts of anti-Semitism by its members. A letter from the party’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, revealed the figures after she was pushed by MPs for specific details. She said 96 members were immediately suspended from the party for their conduct between April 2018 and January 2019, and 12 were expelled. But in a letter, a group of MPs said there was still a lack of information. Labour has struggled to contain a long-running row over anti-Semitism.

Independent
Labour MPs have attacked the party leadership’s response to antisemitism after senior officials admitted that only 12 of almost 700 reports of alleged anti-Jewish abuse had resulted in members being expelled. MPs and peers used their weekly meeting to condemn Jeremy Corbyn and party bosses after Jennie Formby, Labour’s general secretary, emailed MPs with data on investigations into antisemitism. The figures revealed that of 673 cases of members reported for alleged antisemitism between April 2018 and January 2019, almost a third were dropped without further action.

EU

Westmonster
Anti-EU and Eurosceptic forces are set to make up a chunky bloc of the next European Parliament after May’s EU elections, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations. In a new report, they claim that “anti-Europeans on their way to winning more than one-third of seats in the next European Parliament” meaning that “the stakes in the May 2019 election are unusually high”. In a breakdown of the projected results, the study finds that 132 ‘far-right’ MEPs are set to be elected which would be 19% of the chamber overall. This group includes 29 MEPs elected representing Italy’s Lega plus a further 24 for the Five Star Movement.

Telegraph
Eurosceptic parties are on course to take a third of seats in May’s European Parliament elections and could form alliances to destroy the EU from within, new research has claimed. Anti-establishment parties from across the EU could band together to block or curb EU legislation if they win 33 percent of the 751 seats, the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank warned in a report published on Monday. The surge for anti-EU and anti-globalist parties could wreak havoc with the bloc’s foreign and trade policy, as well as paralyse migration policy and efforts to prevent an illiberal drift in some EU countries.

Independent
The growth of anti-EU parties in the European Parliament elections in May could “paralyse” the bloc in a range of policy areas, a stark report seen by The Independent has warned. Nationalist, eurosceptic, and far-right parties could bring about a “qualitative change” in the union after winning a third of seats, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations, a pro-EU think tank. The result would give the populists significant influence in the union and the ability to block some legislation, says the study, which is set to be released on Tuesday.

Mail
George Soros has called for pro-Europe voters to wake up before the continent ‘sleepwalks into oblivion’ ahead of the looming European elections. Writing in an article for business website MarketWatch, billionaire businessman Soros said the EU faced going the way of the Soviet Union if people didn’t act to save it.  ‘Europe is sleepwalking into oblivion, and the people of Europe need to wake up before it is too late,’ Soros wrote. ‘If they don’t, the European Union will go the way of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Another new party

Express
JUST days after Nigel Farage unveiled his new Brexit Party, vowing to put up candidates in future European elections in the event of any delays to Article 50, a campaign group bankrolled by multimillionaire financier Jeremy Hosking is planning to launch a separate political party of its own in a bid to ensure Britain’s smooth departure from the bloc. Mr Hosking confirmed his intentions as Brexit Express launched a nationwide billboard advertising campaign urging the public and politicians to back no deal as the only way to get a good deal from the EU.

Universal credit

ITV News
Food bank use has increased due to the universal credit roll-out, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has admitted. Ms Rudd said it was “absolutely clear” there had been issues with the roll-out and said people being unable to access money “led to an increase in food bank use”. Labour MP Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) had asked about the impact of the roll-out during Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) questions in the Commons.

Mirror
Universal Credit HAS pushed people to food banks, the Tory welfare chief admitted today. Amber Rudd accepted a link between soaring food bank use and the hated benefit shake-up in a House of Commons statement. But she insisted things had improved since the “initial rollout” of the six-in-one welfare system. The number of emergency food parcels handed out by the Trussell Trust charity has soared from 61,000 in 2010/11 to 1.3million last year. It marks a change in tune from the DWP.

Sky News
People placed on the government’s flagship benefits scheme have been driven to food banks because of it, the work and pensions secretary has suggested for the first time. Amber Rudd said it was “absolutely clear” there were “challenges” with the rollout of Universal Credit. She added that the “main issue” behind a spike in reliance on food banks may have been claimants not being able to access welfare support quickly enough.

HS2

Mail
Andrea Leadsom has ratcheted up pressure on the Prime Minister to ditch HS2, expressing fears that the business case for the rail link ‘may no longer exist’. In the latest sign of mounting opposition to the scheme at the heart of government, the House of Commons leader revealed growing concerns about spiralling costs. Downing Street yesterday insisted HS2 is on track and on budget. But a letter written by Mrs Leadsom to HS2’s boss Mark Thurston outlined the ‘absolute dismay’ felt by some of her constituents in South Northamptonshire.

Armed forces

Times
The ministry of Defence is to procure two civilian passenger ferries or cargo vessels and convert them into warships, the defence secretary has announced. Gavin Williamson also revealed today that he would buy off-the-shelf drones to create swarm fleets that can interact with the military’s highly sophisticated F-35 multirole stealth fighter jets. The budget assets will be the first items bought from his department’s multimillion-pound transformation fund that aims to modernise the armed forces.

The post News review – Tuesday 12 February 2019 appeared first on Independence Daily.

‘Something has to give,’ Barnier tells Brexit Britain

European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday (11 February) British Prime Minister Theresa May should endorse a permanent customs union with the bloc - as proposed by the opposition Labour party - to break the impasse over their looming divorce.

Barnier and Barclay break bread, but not Brexit deadlock

There was pan-fried North Sea sole with Scottish scallops and Welsh samphire, roast duck breast and pear parfait for dessert, but a concession on the Northern Ireland backstop was most certainly not on the table.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, spent Monday evening dining with his (relatively) new British counterpart, Stephen Barclay, at the British ambassador’s residence in Brussels.

Barclay is the U.K.’s third state secretary for exiting the European Union since the Brexit process started. Indeed, Prime Minister Theresa May seems to go through negotiators faster than Barnier and Barclay went through bottles of Sancerre and Saint-Émilion wine at their dinner. But Barclay may have arrived for the best part — with the March 29 deadline fast-approaching and a final, crucial deal on the U.K.’s departure still waiting to be clinched.

Barnier, leaving the dinner on Monday, described the discussion with Barclay as positive, but declared yet again that the withdrawal treaty agreed in November would not be reopened or renegotiated.

“Constructive talks,” he told reporters outside. “It is clear from our side that we are not going to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, but we will continue our discussion in the coming days.”

“I found Corbyn’s letter interesting in tone and in content” — Michel Barnier

Earlier in the day, while visiting Prime Minister Xavier Bettel in Luxembourg, Barnier amped up the pressure on May by making the EU’s most openly positive remarks about a proposal by May’s archrival, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, for Britain to remain within the EU’s customs union.

“I found Corbyn’s letter interesting in tone and in content,” Barnier said. His remarks were even more pointed given that May, in a conciliatory letter to Corbyn on Sunday night, appeared willing to consider all of his proposals with the one, notable exception of staying in the customs union.

Barnier’s comments in Luxembourg followed similar praise for Corbyn’s proposal from European Council President Donald Tusk during his meeting with May in Brussels last Thursday. In that conversation, Tusk noted that Corbyn’s proposal “might be a promising way out of the impasse,” an EU official said.

A proposal to stay in the EU customs union would be precisely the type of significant shift in U.K. red lines that EU leaders have said would be necessary to change the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. They have also been looking for any indication of cross-party cooperation in London that might offer promise of a national consensus emerging on the U.K.’s post-Brexit future.

Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn has intrigued EU top brass with his Brexit proposal | Leon Neal/Getty Images

Without such consensus, EU officials expect negotiations on the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU could potentially be even more tortuous than the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement. And they have adamantly refused to make concessions on the Northern Ireland backstop — designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland — because they are convinced that such shifts would put the EU single market at risk while not sufficiently bridging the divisions on the U.K. side to assure ratification of the withdrawal treaty.

Barnier underscored those concerns and frustrations in Luxembourg, saying: “Something has to give on the British side.”

The dinner on Monday night was held in Brussels, but the menu at the ambassador’s residence offered a culinary tour of many corners of the United Kingdom and its sovereign seas. The wine, however, in just a slight bit of deference to Barnier, was French.

In a read-out of the meeting, a British official wrote that Barclay and Barnier met to discuss “the next steps in the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU and explore whether a way through can be found that would be acceptable to the U.K. Parliament and to the European Union.”

“The meeting was constructive,” the official added, “and Mr. Barclay and Mr. Barnier agreed to further talks in the coming days and that their teams would continue to work in the meantime on finding a way forward.”


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News review – Monday 11 February 2019

News review – Monday 11 February 2019

Brexit

Express  (by Patrick O’Flynn)
A SORE tooth is enough to put anyone in a bad mood. A sore Tusk, however, is a temperamental event on an altogether bigger scale. And there is no doubt Donald Tusk, President of the EU Council of Ministers, was feeling very sore when he made his spectacularly undiplomatic outburst against Brexit campaigners, wondering what “special place in hell” lies in wait for us. Tusk is usually a cool character. So while many observers were swept up in the reaction to his remarks, others asked themselves what had brought them about and what the outburst tells us about the pressure on the Brussels high command as Britain’s March 29 leaving date looms. The trail, fascinatingly, leads back to a plot to stop Brexit spearheaded by none other than former PM Tony Blair. EU insiders tell me that Tusk allowed himself to become convinced Brexit was going to be overturned after a plan was constructed between senior Brussels figures and British pro-Remain politicians, led by Blair, that seemed to be working perfectly. Part of the plan involved Brussels playing hardball in negotiations, so that the deal Theresa May was able to put in front of MPs was profoundly unappetising. That advice to Brussels was relayed by a stream of pro-Remain visitors from the heart of the British establishment.

Express
SECRET talks have begun between the UK and EU to prepare the way for a managed no-deal Brexit, sources in Brussels have claimed. It is also understood that the World Trade Organisation has opened the door to a route for the EU and UK to continue trading on an interim basis in the event of no deal being reached by March 29. The revelations come as leading pro-Brexit lawyers have warned that extending Article 50 would be a “blackmailer’s charter” for the EU. Senior figures in Brussels have said that officials at UK Rep – the British embassy in Brussels – have been “putting out feelers” for extending Article 50, but “only to deliver a managed no-deal”.

Telegraph
Theresa May has agreed to hold fresh talks with Jeremy Corbyn’s over his plans for a soft Brexit that would keep Britain tied to the Single Market after Brexit and locked in a customs union with the EU. In a letter to the Labour leader, the Prime Minister did not rule out Mr Corbyn’s demand for a “permanent” customs union although she said it would present a “negotiating challenge”. She also agreed to talks on Mr Corbyn’s call for “close alignment” with the Single Market, as well as committing to asking Parliament if it wishes to follow EU rules on workers’ rights and environment standards​.​

Times
Theresa May opened the door last night to a soft Brexit by engaging with Jeremy Corbyn on a customs union in a move that puts her at risk of losing the support of members of her cabinet. In a letter to the Labour leader, the prime minister suggested that their parties hold further talks on the issue of a permanent customs union in an attempt to win support from Labour MPs for her Brexit plan. She also offered guarantees on environmental and employment laws, addressing more of the opposition’s central demands.

Mirror
Theresa May will offer MPs the chance to copy EU rules on workers’ rights after Brexit as she bids to win Labour support for her withdrawal deal. The Prime Minister’s move will be seen as an olive branch as she desperately seeks backing for her pact after its crushing Commons defeat last month. The Tory leader is set to deny MPs a fresh “meaningful vote” until next month – edging closer to the March 29 withdrawal deadline.

BBC News
Theresa May has responded to Jeremy Corbyn’s letter setting out his five demands for a Brexit deal. The prime minister queried his call for the UK to stay in a customs union with the EU – but welcomed more talks with Labour on a Brexit agreement. Mrs May wants the two parties to discuss how “alternative arrangements” to the Irish backstop – a commitment to avoid a hard border – could work. She did not reject any of his conditions outright in her reply.

Guardian
Theresa May has effectively ruled out Labour’s ideas for a compromise Brexit plan, shutting off another potential route to a deal as business groups warned that with less than 50 days to go the departure process was entering the “emergency zone”. The prime minister’s formal response to Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal, in a letter to the Labour leader, stressed her objections to keeping the UK in some form of customs union, saying this would prevent the UK making its own trade deals. But in an apparent renewed bid to win over wavering Labour MPs, May made a concession on environmental and workers’ rights, discounting Corbyn’s idea of automatic alignment with EU standards but suggesting instead a Commons vote every time these change.

Reuters
British Prime Minister Theresa May has rejected the idea of targeting a customs union with the European Union, pouring cold water on hopes from some that she could shift her Brexit policy to win over the opposition Labour Party. Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 but has yet to find a deal which is acceptable to both Brussels and lawmakers at home, raising the prospect of a disorderly exit that could damage the world’s fifth largest economy.

Sun
THERESA May is planning to take Brexit to the brink after delaying the do-or-die Commons vote on her deal until next month. The Government yesterday promised MPs they will get another chance to vote on Brexit options on February 27.  But Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said that would not necessarily be the crunch Meaningful Vote on the PM’s deal. The further delay risks triggering an exodus of Remainer ministers who last month gave the PM a two-week deadline to secure a breakthrough.

Labour Party

Times
Tom Watson appeared to edge the Labour Party closer to backing another Brexit  referendum yesterday in breach of its present policy. Mr Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, suggested the party could support a fresh public vote if the cross-party talks between the opposition and government fail. He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “It seems to me we’re now at the point where we can have meaningful talks to get a deal between the main political party leaders or the only way to break the impasse is a public vote, and that remains our policy.”

Independent
Rebel Labour MPs targeted by Downing Street are being warned that their constituencies could lose £1.1bn a year within a decade if they back Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Analysis of Treasury figures for the People’s Vote campaign found the 32 constituencies such as Wigan and Hartlepool could be hit by a total annual loss of £970m in economic output and some £100m in agricultural subsidies and structural funds within 10 years of leaving the EU.

Mirror
Labour has launched a bid to FORCE Theresa May not to delay her crunch Brexit vote until the last minute. Just 47 days before we leave, the party will this week try to bind the Prime Minister to let MPs have their say no later than February 26. It comes amid reports she plans to run down the clock to just 72 hours before exit day. The PM might have to stitch up agreement at an EU summit on March 22. That could be followed by a Commons statement on Monday 25 March – and a final vote by MPs only after that.

Express
LABOUR has piled the pressure on Theresa May after vowing to force the Prime Minister to put her Brexit deal to a second crunch vote in in the House of Commons before the end of the month. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer warned Labour will try to stop Britain leaving the European Union without an agreement by using a Commons amendment to require Mrs May to hold another ‘meaningful vote’ by February 26.

Business

Express
THE government has won Brexit victory after signing a deal ensuring trade between the UK and Switzerland continues uninterrupted after Britain leaves the European Union. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox put pen to paper on the deal in the Swiss capital Bern yesterday, saying the agreement provides a “solid foundation” for a post-Brexit trading relationship.

Sky News
The government will today sign a trade deal with Switzerland, heralded as the most significant such agreement in the run-up to Brexit. The deal, known as a trade continuity agreement, will guarantee future trading terms between the two countries once the UK has left the EU. It will be signed, in the Swiss city of Bern, by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and the Swiss federal councillor Guy Parmelin.

EU

Express
BRUSSELS has sparked fury by stopping member states agreeing arrangements with the UK to provide healthcare to expats in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to an official memo. A Government document seen by the Daily Telegraph claims Brussels is refusing to let EU countries engage with each other so health arrangements for British nationals in the bloc can be put in place. Currently, European Union citizens with a right to live in the UK can claim benefits in the country just like British nationals do.

Telegraph
Italy is drawing up emergency plans to safeguard financial stability and keep trade with the UK flowing even if there is a no-deal Brexit, if necessary through a bilateral deal between Rome and London. The country’s insurgent Lega-Five Star coalition is increasingly worried that a mishandling of the EU’s Brexit crisis could push Italy’s fragile economy into a dangerous downward slide and risk a funding crisis for its sovereign debt at a treacherous moment.

Telegraph
An influential economic research centre has warned that 100,000 jobs could be put at risk in Germany if the UK leaves the EU without securing a deal.  The study by the Halle Institute for Economic Research found that jobs in the car industry would be particularly vulnerable to the uncertainties created by Britain tumbling out of the EU without securing a favourable trading relationship.

Times
A no-deal Brexit would jeopardise at least 100,000 jobs in Germany and up to 50,000 in France because of a slump in exports, according to a study. Economists have calculated that 15,000 workers in the German car industry — roughly one in a hundred — could be made redundant if formidable trade barriers sprang up with Britain. The blow would be felt in much of the world but fall most heavily on high-tech manufacturing centres such as Wolfsburg, the home of Volkswagen, and Böblingen, a suburb of Stuttgart where Siemens and IBM are leading employers.

Telegraph
A vicious street brawl between rival “yellow vest” factions has highlighted bitter divisions among the anti-government protesters as the speaker of the National Assembly warned of a culture of violence engulfing French politics. Dozens of far Right supporters and ultra-Leftists taking part in yellow vest protests fought with fists, rocks and sticks in the eastern city of Lyon on Saturday night. The violence was seen as further evidence of widening splits in the leaderless grassroots movement.

Breitbart
A new report from a French magazine claims that at least 150 Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) activists have their phones tapped by the French government and are being tracked online. The report comes from weekly political magazine Le Point, which says that French security services agents have been tracking the Yellow Vest protestors and listening to their phone conversations, building on prior similar claims by Le Canard Enchaîné, the satirical weekly which broke a scandal involving former presidential candidate Francois Fillon, France-Soir reports.

Foreign aid

Express
TAXPAYERS in the UK are footing the bill for a £2 million road safety project which includes funding a driving simulator in China – the world’s second-largest economy which already received a staggering £47 MILLION in British aid. The ambitious research project, which it has been warned will “drive Brits up the wall”, is based at the University of Southampton and focuses on ways to reduce road traffic accidents around the globe.

HS2

Times
The £56 billion earmarked for HS2 may have been better spent on other projects, according to the former head of the rail watchdog. Stephen Glaister said that the budget for Europe’s biggest infrastructure programme could have been invested on upgrades to railways in the Midlands and north of England. A survey of more than 2,000 people published today found that only 12 per cent believe the new line represents “good value for taxpayers’ money”.

Mail
A growing Cabinet revolt is threatening to sink the HS2 rail link. Ministers are alarmed by the project’s spiralling costs and are ‘increasingly minded to kill it off’, says a senior source. Initially put at £33billion, the budget is thought to have soared to more than £60billion. Treasury insiders admit the scheme is being added to an audit of major capital projects in which its future will be assessed ‘from scratch’. This means funding could be squeezed or stopped.

Health

Times
Tens of thousands of women with a family history of breast cancer would benefit from annual NHS checks, according to a study. Health chiefs have been urged to consider screening such women from 35 after the study concluded that this would find almost twice as many tumours at an early stage while halving the number that had already spread by the time they were detected. Lives are likely to be saved by spotting these cancers earlier and the extra screening would not create a significant risk of healthy women getting needless treatment, researchers said.

Sun
UP to 86,000 women in their thirties with a family history of breast cancer should receive annual mammograms, say researchers. A study at 34 UK screening centres found the checks for those aged 35 to 39 at moderate or high risk spotted smaller tumours compared with those not tested. Earlier diagnosis also meant the cancer  was less likely to have spread. NHS screening is meant to start at 40 for women known to be in danger.

Mail
Up to 950 files relating to the contaminated blood scandal were removed by Whitehall officials, an investigation has found. Although most have since been retrieved, at least 45 documents are still missing and unaccounted for. The files were ‘checked out’ by civil servants from the Department of Health and, oddly, the Department for Education at intervals over the past three decades. Campaigners believe they contain evidence that will incriminate officials over what they knew and when.

Times
Doctors must be trained to question computer diagnoses as treatment becomes increasing automated, an NHS review has concluded. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI), apps, wearable devices and genetic analysis in medicine poses a serious risk of harm unless there is proper oversight, warns the US academic Eric Topol. His review, ordered by the government, says that within 10 to 20 years doctors will be using prescribing apps to treat patients, AI will interpret scans, robots will carry out surgery and algorithms will predict who will get ill.

Education

Times
A head teachers’ union is supporting plans by thousands of teenagers to walk out of lessons on Friday and join global protests over climate change. Secondary pupils in at least 30 British towns and cities will down their pens for three hours at 11am to demand action from the government. The Youth Strike 4 Climate puts schools in a difficult position. Taking a hard line on striking pupils could undermine teachers’ efforts to engage young people with politics. However, granting a day off would set a precedent and schools could be liable for their pupils’ safety at the rallies.

Mail
A band of veteran militant green activists are fuelling a campaign to encourage thousands of children to skip school. On Friday, thousands of pupils will walk out of lessons across the country in a mass protest over climate change. Children as young as nine will be taking part in the day of action – which is being quietly supported by some teachers – while organisers say the strike is the beginning of a wave of youth protests of increasing intensity.

Sky News
The MP who leads the education select committee has said GCSEs should be scrapped. Robert Halfon wants to replace them with a baccalaureate, taken at 18, that offers more access to vocation-based technical and creative skills, alongside traditional academic learning. The Conservative MP for Harlow will use a speech to education professionals at the Cabinet War Rooms in London to say England’s education system needs a radical overhaul.

Mail
More children will be able to attend grammar schools in the next three years as almost 3,000 new places will be created. However the £50million fund for new classrooms will focus on schools that prioritise poorer pupils – to stop them becoming too ‘socially exclusive’. Announcing the extra cash today, schools minister Nick Gibb will say grammars are now ‘returning to their original social mobility agenda’ after decades of being colonised by the middle classes.

Times
Children at Britain’s largest group of not-for-profit nurseries will spend hours a day playing outside, even in the rain, and the chief executive wants others to follow suit. The London Early Years Foundation, which has 37 nurseries, will give children aged two to five a daily minimum of two hours’ gardening, looking at nature or just playing outside under its experimental new curriculum.

Armed forces

Telegraph
Britain must be ready to use “hard power” and increase the “mass and lethality” of its armed forces to combat growing aggression from Russia and China, the Defence Secretary will say on Monday. Gavin Williamson will warn the UK will be seen as “little more than a paper tiger” if it talks tough but walks away from global crises and he will make the case for military-led intervention to stand up to countries which “flout international law”.

Independent
The aircraft-carrier Queen Elizabeth, with two squadrons of F-35 stealth fighters on board, will be sent into disputed waters in the Pacific in a display of “hard power”, the defence secretary is due to announce in a major speech on Britain’s military strategy in the post-Brexit world. Gavin Williamson will declare the UK “may have to intervene” in future to confront aggression from countries like Russia and China who “flout international law” and are “resurgent” in rebuilding their armed forces.

The post News review – Monday 11 February 2019 appeared first on Independence Daily.

Theresa May extends Brexit olive branch to Labour

British Prime Minister Theresa May is preparing for fresh talks with Jeremy Corbyn this week after sending the Labour leader a conciliatory letter Sunday night specifying areas for further negotiations between the government and the opposition, and adding the two sides should meet again “as soon as possible.”

The letter came after Corbyn last week set out five conditions for his party’s support for the government’s Brexit deal.

May set out a series of measures clearly designed to win over wavering Labour MPs. In addition to new laws banning the rollback of existing workers’ rights and environmental standards, the PM also promised to legislate for MPs to be given a vote every time the EU strengthens regulations in the years to come — a step toward Labour’s call for “dynamic alignment” with EU rules and regulations, under which British law would automatically keep up with future European standards. May also promised more help for “left-behind communities.”

May’s only real rebuke was to Corbyn’s call for customs union membership, and his suggestion Britain would still get a say over future EU trade deals. “I am not clear why you think it would be preferable to seek a say in future EU trade deals rather than the ability to strike our own,” the PM wrote.

But May sought to reassure Corbyn that her plans for close alignment with the EU’s customs union and single market “provide for the closest relationship possible” outside full membership.

Boris Johnson, former foreign secretary and a leading Brexiteer, accused Corbyn of wanting to “frustrate” Brexit by staying in a permanent customs union.

Noting that the current backstop arrangement would keep Britain in the customs union with no say on it, Johnson acknowledged that “Jeremy Corbyn’s position at least has the logic that the U.K.would be somehow sitting around the table. I don’t know how it’s supposed to work. It looks to me like staying in the EU.”

“The problem with the backstop,” Johnson told the BBC’s Today program, “is you’re staying in the customs union, you can’t do free-trade deals, Brussels is running your trade policy, you’re collecting tariffs and sending 80 percent of the value to Brussels. You’re effectively a colony of Brussels.”

Johnson called for changes to the backstop arrangement that would allow the U.K. to decide how and when to leave it.

“The argument is now about how to get out of the backstop, and how to make sure that the U.K. isn’t locked in that prison of the customs union. I think that you would need to have a time limit. [Changes] would have to give the United Kingdom a U.K.-sized exit from the backstop. We would have to be able to get out by a certain time and we would have to be able to get out of our own volition,” he said.

Asked about predictions that the pound could fall by a fifth in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Johnson said “There would be challenges in leaving without a deal at all, but I don’t think that is what is going to happen. I think the EU and the U.K. will come to some sort of arrangement.”

“The pound will go where it will,” he added. “Sometimes you can have very significant falls in the pound without that being passed on in the form of [price] inflation.”

In her letter, May said she supports Labour’s ambition to keeping participating in many key EU programs, and for a security relationship that’s broadly unchanged. Noting Corbyn’s concerns over the Irish backstop, May urged him to discuss with her the various “alternative arrangements” she hopes to secure.


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May rejects pivot towards Brexit customs union compromise

British Prime Minister Theresa May has rejected the idea of targeting a customs union with the European Union, pouring cold water on hopes from some that she could shift her Brexit policy to win over the opposition Labour Party.
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