A PETITION calling for Britain to quit the EU immediately has attracted enough support to trigger a Commons debate, parliamentary officials announced today. More than 132,000 people have backed the online petition on the official Parliament website urging the Prime Minister to abandon the Brexit negotiations and begin the withdrawal from the bloc. MPs are now scheduled to debate the issue in Parliament’s Westminster Hall annexe on January 22. Under parliamentary rules, MPs are expected to hold a debate on any issue raised by a petition that gets more than 100,000 supporters. The “Leave the EU immediately” petition was added to the Parliament website in September and is set to remain open for more signatures until March.
Philip Hammond last night refused to rule out making substantial payments to the EU after Brexit in order to secure market access for British-based financial service firms. Asked during a trip to Berlin whether the UK would be prepared to pay for access to the EU markets for City firms, the Chancellor was pointedly non-committal. “We will talk about all of these things,” he said. The question of UK payments emerged after Bloomberg, the news agency, reported that Germany would demand “substantial” payments to EU budgets in exchange for market access as part of any “deep and comprehensive” trade agreement after Brexit. Mr Hammond’s implicit acknowledgement that the UK may well need to “pay to play” in Europe after Brexit is likely to inflame passions among Brexiteers who have repeatedly warned such payments would be unacceptable.
British financial firms will be allowed privileged access to European Union markets in return for payments to Brussels under plans being considered by countries including Germany. Government figures in EU capitals are examining ways to make a wide-ranging trade deal contingent on Britain continuing to make substantial payments. “If Britain wants to trade budget contributions for access to [the] single market for the City, there will be many takers,” one European diplomat said. This is the first sign that some EU nations are thinking creatively about how to maintain links after Brexit. It comes in spite of the insistence by Michel Barnier, chief Brexit negotiator for the EU, that the bloc can offer only a limited, Canadian-style trade deal excluding financial services.
Philip Hammond will tell EU leaders they must now make clear what they want from their relationship with Britain in the future, saying “it takes two to tango”. In a speech to Germany’s business leaders, the Chancellor will say European politicians who think it is only for the British to set out what the future holds are mistaken. Only last night the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier gave a speech in which he lamented that the UK was yet to set out more detailed proposals for a future trade arrangement. Both British and EU negotiators are now gearing up for the first round of Brexit talks in 2018, which will focus on determining the terms of the transition period between, likely to be between 2019 and 2021.
Philip Hammond has accused European Union governments of failing to set out what future relationship they want with Britain, saying during a speech in Germany that “it takes two to tango.” At a conference in Berlin hosted by the newspaper Die Welt, the chancellor said negotiating partners have given “little, if any signal”, of how they want to work with Britain after the “implementation period” that will start in March 2019. “They say it takes two to tango. Both sides need to be clear about what they want from a future relationship,” he said. “I know the repeated complaint from Brussels has been that the UK hasn’t made up its mind what type of relationship it wants, but in London, many feel that we have little, if any, signal of what future relationship the EU27 would like to have with a post-Brexit Britain.”
PHILIP Hammond tonight told the EU to come up with its own plan for Brexit – instead of obsessing over how to punish British voters for leaving the bloc. He attacked Brussels for its “silence” on what it wants from our future relationship. And turning the tables, the Chancellor told European leaders and Eurocrats they must specify what they want from a post-Brexit trade deal instead of sitting back and waiting for Britain to do all the legwork. He told a key economic summit in Berlin – attended by Angela Merkel and a host of top German business chiefs – that Britain had been given no sign of what future relationship the 27 EU member states wanted. It’s the latest sign of Mr Hammond’s tough-talking approach with Brussels after facing widespread criticism from Tory MPs of his anti-Brexit stance last year.
BRITAIN has already agreed free trade deals in principle with dozens of non-EU countries – ready to take effect the day after Brexit Day in March 2019, an ex-minister has revealed. Lord Price, who resigned as an international trade minister in September, said Britain had exchanged letters with 36 countries agreeing to roll-over existing EU free trade agreements after we leave. He told the Commons International Trade Committee that the department was offering countries three options: to cut and paste existing EU FTAs; an agreement to continue on the same basis until a new deal can be reached, and a brand new FTA. A small number of countries initially preferred the third option but changed their minds when ministers said they couldn’t start negotiations until March 2019.
The Scottish government said on Wednesday it was preparing legislation that would ensure legal continuity in Scotland after Brexit as a fallback option in case it fails to reach agreement with Prime Minister Theresa May on her exit plan. Scottish ministers are unhappy with several elements of May’s approach to legally enacting Britain’s exit from the European Union, including the way that powers reclaimed from Brussels will be distributed back to Scotland. May’s government says she expects to have to seek permission from Scotland’s devolved parliament to enact her exit plan via legislation known as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which is going through the British parliament. The Scottish government has said it is not willing to give its consent until concerns about devolution are addressed. With that in mind, Scotland’s ministers said they wanted to start contingency planning by preparing the Scottish parliament for the introduction of its own bill designed to ensure legal continuity after leaving the EU.
A new survey has shown that contrary to the EU fanaticism of the Scottish National Party, a majority of the Scottish people are against maintaining freedom of movement post-Brexit. 63% agree that the migration rules in Scotland should be the same as in the rest of the UK. The NatCen poll also found that 59% of Scots are in favour of treating EU migrants the same as non-EU migrants moving forward, a clear indication of support for the ending of the current open door system to those from the European Union. Only 25% of Scots think EU migrants should be given preferential treatment post-Brexit. It is a timely reminder that right across Brexit Britain, there is big support for curbing mass migration and putting in place a sensible system of managed, controlled migration. That is what the government must now get on and deliver.
The President of the European Parliament has told right-wing Hungary and Poland that they must accept liberal values or leave the bloc. Guy Verhofstadt, who is also the parliament’s Brexit spokesman and leads its largest liberal bloc, said there was “no place” in the European Union (EU) for nations who elected right-wing governments to create “illiberal societies”. “The European Union… was built to guarantee our citizens’ freedom, democracy and the rule of law. If the Hungarian and Polish governments want to build closed and illiberal societies, they must do it outside the EU,” he blasted Wednesday on Twitter. Adding: “There is no place in our Union for countries who take EU money, who want to participate in the single market but who reject our shared values #ValuesFirst”.
Britain’s economy grew by more than expected last year as booming exports sent manufacturers on their best run for 20 years, figures showed on Wednesday. Gross domestic product – the total size of the economy – increased by 0.6 per cent between October and December, according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). A separate report from the Office for National Statistics found ‘strong and widespread growth across manufacturing’ as renewable energy projects and the production of boats, planes and cars boosted the figures. The institute said the pick-up in the economy towards the end of 2017 took growth for the year to 1.8 per cent – well above the 1.4 per cent the think-tank predicted 12 months ago.
NEW figures have revealed that Britain’s Brexit boom is being fuelled by growing trade with the rest of the world. According to the official trade figures published, British exports in services have hit a record high of £70.5 billion. This accounted for almost half Britain’s overall exports including goods which rose by two per cent to £158 billion from the year before. However, the figures were boosted further by a faster than average increase in non-EU countries of 2.7 per cent with China, Hong Kong and the USA being the largest markets. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has hailed the figures of proof that Britain is ready to succeed after Brexit. They also again prove that the Remain campaign’s Project Fear about an economic collapse was false.
MEMBERS of Parliament were left cross-legged after 200 toilets in the palace of Westminster stopped working on the busiest session of the year so far, the maintenance department revealed. A great stink began wafting through the corridors around the House of Commons after a burst water pipe took the toilets out of action. The toilets were blocked on the busiest day of Parliament this year which has led to demands for Theresa May to start a £6billion refurbishment. Tom Brake from the commission in charge of Commons maintenance said: “Parliament cannot keep its legs crossed for another 10 years. “When the toilets stop flushing you know it is time to stop kicking the can down the road.” Senior MPs offices are higher up so faced the worst blockages, but also politicians and staff were unable to use loos outside the Stranger’s Bar.
A cyberattack could cause Britain or another nuclear-armed state to launch a strike by mistake, according to a defence think tank. Its report identified digital vulnerabilities within nuclear weapons systems, such as the risk of data being compromised or false information being delivered to decision-makers. These risks could undermine confidence in a country’s ability to react at a time of crisis. “Cyber-vulnerabilities within nuclear weapons systems and structures present a whole set of dangers and risks,” the report, released today by Chatham House, said. “At best, cyber-insecurity in nuclear weapons systems is likely to undermine trust and confidence in military capabilities and in the nuclear weapons infrastructure.
NHS trusts have commissioned their own study into how the health system should be funded as they warned that pressures on services are becoming “intolerable”. The NHS Confederation, which represents 85 per cent of NHS providers and commissioners, has asked the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Health Foundation to conduct a joint assessment of how much investment the NHS and social care system will need in the next 15 years. The Confederation hopes the study will provide “objective evidence” of how big a cash injection the NHS needs. The first of the project’s two reports will be published in mid-June and will outline the required investment up to 2032, as well as comparing the UK’s health spending to that of other countries. The second will follow before the end of 2018 and will focus on how well the NHS is meeting its aim of “providing a comprehensive service, which meets the needs of all”.
Theresa May will today pledge to end the scourge of disposable plastic. In a major speech on the environment, she will warn that future generations will be shocked by our throwaway culture. She will unveil a 25-year strategy to eliminate all ‘avoidable’ plastic, including bottles, cups and most packaging. ‘We look back in horror at some of the damage done to our environment in the past and wonder how anyone could have thought that dumping toxic chemicals, untreated, into rivers was ever the right thing to do,’ she will say. ‘In years to come, I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly.’
Theresa May will commit the UK to eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 as she launches the Government’s environmental plan for the next 25-years. Under the pledge waste such as the carrier bags, food packaging and disposable plastic straws that litter the country and pollute the seas would be abolished. But the target was given a frosty reception from environmental groups with one leading organisation saying it “lacks urgency, detail and bite”, while another said the country “can’t afford to wait” so long. The broader 25-year plan, first promised three years ago, will also urge supermarkets to set up “plastic-free aisles” for goods with no packaging and confirm plans to extend the 5p charge for carrier bags to all English retailers.
The European Commission has proposed a new EU-wide tax on plastics to help plug a £20bn shortfall in the bloc’s finances after Britain leaves and stops making budget contributions. Günther Oettinger, the Commissioner for the EU’s Budget, said the tax would be part of “new financial resources” available to the union and that the EU would also be making cuts to expenditure to finance new commitments and the revenue shortfall. Member states will also be asked to contribute more. In additional to the new environment tax, officials are also suggesting moving the income from the bloc’s emissions trading scheme from member states to Brussels, arguing that this would be “logical” because the policy is set at the EU level.
Peers have inflicted a defeat on the Government in the House of Lords demanding Theresa May launch a second phase of the Leveson inquiry into the behaviour of the press. The upper chamber voted by 238 votes to 209, defeating the Government with a majority of 29. It calls on the Government to investigate “corporate governance and management failures” in the press. The crossbench amendment to the Data Protection Bill – supported by Labour and the Liberal Democrats – aims to hold a second phase of the Leveson inquiry, following the first that was set up by David Cameron in 2011. Supporters of the move argued it was needed amid claims of ongoing press abuses while opponents said it amounted to “harassment” of the media. While the vote could be overturned when the legislation returns to the Commons, the newly-appointed Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said: “House of Lords have just voted to restrict press freedoms.
ARROGANT Lords took aim at Press freedom once again last night by voting to enforce another Leveson-style inquiry. They voted that a probe into alleged data protection breaches and other abuses by the media must be launched. But scrapping the second stage of Leveson was part of the Conservative manifesto and new Culture Secretary Matt Hancock pledged to overturn the vote, saying the Tories supported a free press. He said: “This vote will undermine high-quality journalism, fail to resolve challenges the media face and is a hammer blow to local press.” But a Government source went further by branding the move a disgrace.
Henry Bolton has confirmed his marriage is over, he’s in a serious relationship with 25-year-old model Jo Marney and he has no plans to quit as UKIP Leader. Bolton, speaking exclusively to Westmonster, claimed that the recent media attention regarding his private life was an attempt by left-wing opposition to damage his party. On his interaction with Jo Marney, Bolton said: “It’s a serious relationship.” When asked if his marriage was over he said: “Yes. My marriage has been in a difficult situation for a number of years. Let’s be very clear about this – before the relationship with Jo we had serious problems in the marriage and I had already told her that as far as I was concerned I had had enough. “I’m still a man of integrity, I’m following my heart.” He added: “The reports are an infringement into our private lives. It’s an attempt by the left-wing media in particular to try to attack the party through me. It’s not worked.