Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier are expected to sum up the state of negotiations on the UK’s departure from the union later. The fifth round of talks – the final discussions before a crucial EU summit on 19 and 20 October – are due to end. The UK has been hoping EU leaders at the summit will decide enough progress has been made to open trade talks. The UK is set to leave the European Union at the end of March 2019. The BBC’s Kevin Connolly said there had been no indication of a breakthrough and this round of negotiations has remained “remarkably leak-proof”. EU sources have described a “constructive mood” without real progress and nothing has been said that suggests a sense of gathering momentum, our correspondent added.
Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier are expected to hold an end of talks press conference later amid little sign of concrete progress. The fifth round of Brexit negotiations is coming to an end amid growing frustration at the apparent lack of progress in Brussels to break the deadlock. On Tuesday European Council president Donald Tusk warned the negotiations had not advanced sufficiently to move onto the second phase – including a new free trade deal. The Prime Minister told MPs this week that contingency plans were being worked up in case the UK did not reach a deal with the EU, though she says she remains optimistic about the prospects for an agreement. Next week Mr Barnier will brief the leaders of the other 27 EU member states on the negotiations when they meet at a summit in Brussels.
Brexit “is not a game”, Michel Barnier snapped at reporters yesterday. The European Union’s chief negotiator must be rather tetchy as he is finding that progress remains slow with the British not wanting to indulge him by spelling out how much they are prepared to pay as a so-called divorce-bill, with both sides now choosing not to bother talking today. Monsieur Barnier’s bosses in Brussels are starting to worry that he may fail to secure a deal with the British in the end. Donald Tusk suggested that he and his fellow Eurocrats would “have to think about where we are heading” if talks continue at such a “slow pace”. Their thought process would have to include preparing for a “no deal” Brexit, as the European Council president wanted to say “very clearly that the EU is not working on such a scenario” at the moment.
HARDLINERS in Germany are blocking the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator from opening trade talks with the UK, diplomats have claimed. According to reports, Michel Barnier, who is heading the Commission’s Brexit team, is pushing for trade talks to begin as soon as possible. But sources in Brussels have said that Angela Merkel’s government in Berlin, which has been significantly damaged after big electoral losses last month, is holding out for Britain to agree to pay a massive divorce bill of up to £78billion. Mrs Merkel is worried that Germany will have to pick up the bill when the EU loses Britain’s net contribution of more than £10billion a year. She is understood to be unhappy with Theresa May’s generous offer to keep paying contributions during a transition period.
EU leaders will almost certainly refuse to allow the Brexit talks to move forward to the issue of trade at a crunch summit next week, the president of the EU Council said yesterday. Donald Tusk signalled that the gathering in Brussels was unlikely to agree that enough progress had been made so far for the negotiations to advance to the next stage. His remarks were being seen last night of a rejection of Theresa May’s call for more “flexibility and leadership” from Brussels. And the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier hinted at irritation with the Prime Minister’s stance by insisting: “Brexit is not a game.” The double response from senior Eurocrats confirmed expectations in Downing Street that the talks are likely to remain stalled at least until the end of the year, raising the possibility of the negotiations collapsing and the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
Mike Hookem MEP, the UKIP Fisheries Spokesman blasts May after she tells PMQs that the Common Fisheries Policy will form part of the agreement during any Brexit implementation period. The Prime Minister’s betrayal will devastate people in fishing communities up and down the country who have put their trust in her to deliver the Brexit they voted for,” added Mr Hookem. Mr Hookem’s comments came after the Prime Minister confirmed to the House of Commons during PMQs that fishing would form “part of the agreement that we need to enter into for the implementation period, this [the CFP] and other issues will form part of that agreement.” Speaking from Brussels, Mr Hookem said, “After months of mixed messages and vague assurances, the Prime Minister has finally let the cat out of the bag and confirmed we have been saying for months; that the Conservatives intend to use UK fishing rights as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations.
The European Court of Justice will have the power to strike down any Brexit deal between Britain and Brussels, MPs were warned yesterday. Sir Konrad Schiemann, who was Britain’s representative on the court until 2012, told the Commons Brexit committee that any agreement would be open to legal challenge at the ECJ even if both sides agreed the deal. He warned that if it ruled the agreement to be illegal under European law both sides would have to renegotiate. Giving evidence to the cross-party committee of MPs examining the government’s EU withdrawal bill, he said that the court may insist on a continuing role in policing any future agreement between the EU and the UK.
The European Court of Justice can veto any Brexit deal and force the EU and Britain back into a lengthy renegotiation phase, it has emerged. According to Sir Konrad Schiemann, who was Britain’s representative on the court until 2012, “any agreement that is made between the EU and Parliament is subject to challenge in the European Court of Justice on the subject of powers of the parties who have made that agreement”. He added: “So the Commission and the people negotiating on behalf of the EU are faced with this problem: they can’t just do what they think is good. They have got to remain within their powers. “Certainly in so far as they touch on the role of the ECJ. If you exclude the ECJ altogether and for example try and set up a different tribunal – this has been done in various other draft treaties – sometimes the ECJ has said yes that will work and other times it has said it won’t.”
Philip Hammond has called for a rapid response from the EU27 to the prime minister’s offer of a transition deal, and even warned that there could be no air traffic between the UK and the EU if no exit deal of any kind could be agreed. The chancellor underlined the “need for speed” in agreeing the outlines of the transition, expected to cover around two years, which is aimed at giving businesses and the government time to adjust to the post-Brexit world. He also warned that a no-deal outcome was still possible, raising the possibility that the talks could end in a “bad-tempered breakdown” – and said in that unlikely scenario it would have a major impact on both sides. But his main emphasis was to argue that business wanted to know that a transitional deal would be in place soon, describing it as a “wasting asset”, which will be less valuable the longer it takes to agree.
PHILIP Hammond has lashed out at the European Union (EU) for stalling Brexit discussions. The Chancellor, whose nickname is ‘Spreadsheet Phil’, revealed he was fed-up with EU chiefs refusing to even discuss the UK’s proposals. Known for being mild-mannered and unshakeable, Mr Hammond got progressively aggravated during this morning’s Treasury Select Committee where he answered questions about the Government’s plans for Brexit. He hit out at the EU several times during the lengthy meeting, saying he could not understand why they did not want to discuss the EU’s future relationship with the UK. Theresa May’s right-hand man also said the UK has done lots of work to set out its plans but the EU is doing nothing, which the British people are finding difficult to understand. Mr Hammond, said: “We’ve set out a fair and generous proposal to the EU. “We don’t want them to immediately say ‘we agree’, but we want them to say ‘yes let’s sit around a table and talk about a future agreement’.
A new Brexit faultline opened up in the Conservative party after Theresa May appeared to slap down Chancellor Philip Hammond over how much the Government will spend preparing for a ‘no deal’ Brexit. The Prime Minister said she has now set aside £250m to help prepare for Brexit, including a no deal scenario, with aides saying she would spend “whatever necessary”. But earlier on Wednesday, Mr Hammond signalled he wanted to wait until “the last point” before authorising spending on ‘no deal’ preparations and appeared unwilling to discuss further funds.
There is anger in number 10 at the “obtuse approach” of Philip Hammond to leaving the EU, according to BBC political editor Nick Watt. It stems from an article which Philip Hammond wrote in The Times which prompted the paper to run an analysis with a front-page headline saying, “Hammond refuses to budget for hard-Brexit”. Speaking on Newsnight, Nick Watt said: “There is immense irritation in number 10 over what is being described as the ‘obtuse’ approach of Philip Hammond to politics. “There was not an actual problem with his article because that was approved – which he said he would spend the money but will only spend it when it is necessary. “But there was an annoyance in Downing Street over how he handled his relations with The Times, which quite rightly and justifiably wrote a rather dramatic story on their front page.”
THE BBC has four times more pro-Europe guests than Brexit fans on its top political shows, a Sun probe reveals. BBC1’s Andrew Marr has had 129 Remainers since last year’s referendum, compared with just 33 Leavers. And its Sunday Politics show had 78 pro-EU campaigners but only 37 Brexiteers. The bias has got worse since 72 cross-party politicians wrote to complain to BBC Director-General Tony Hall in March. Now senior MPs are calling for action by watchdog Ofcom. Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg called the figures proof of “deep-seated bias”. He said: “Fortunately the public prefer the views of The Sun to the BBC. Long may that remain true.” Before the March complaint, 23.7 per cent of Marr’s guests were Leave supporters, and 76.3 pro-EU. The figures have now become 15.4 per cent and 84.6.
Energy companies will be forced to introduce an “absolute” cap on prices under new laws to stop 18million households from being “ripped off”. Theresa May will face a backlash from both energy companies and Tory MPs as she unveils draft legislation that will force energy companies to limit energy prices. The Daily Telegraph has learned that the Prime Minister has rejected calls for a softer “relative” price cap, which has found favour with Tory MPs opposed to interventions in free markets. Under the plans Ofgem, the energy regulator, will introduce a strict limit for each region on the amount that companies can charge households for each unit of energy they use.
Plans for a price cap on “rip-off” energy tariffs will go before Parliament today to prevent millions of customers paying over the odds on their bills. The Government is set to publish draft legislation that would allow the energy regulator Ofgem to cap poor-value tariffs that punish loyal customers who do not shop around for a better deal. More than 18 million households are currently on standard variable or other default tariffs and the market watchdog found customers paid out some £1.4bn a year more than they needed to in bills. The long-awaited cap was intended as a key announcement in Theresa May’s party conference speech last week but the event was derailed by a prankster, a coughing fit and a collapsing set.
A law to protect consumers from rip-offs by energy companies – promised by Theresa May in her ill-fated Tory conference speech – is being unveiled in the Commons. The legislation is aimed at cutting bills for households on a standard variable tariff, which critics claim penalises loyal customers who stay with one supplier rather than shop around. A pledge to change the law was included in the Conservative manifesto before June’s General Election, but dropped from the subsequent Queen’s Speech after some Tory MPs claimed it was state intervention and anti-free market. But after 192 MPs of all parties wrote to the Prime Minister in September complaining that poorer customers were being preyed on by energy firms, Mrs May revived the plan and backed a price cap.
Pensioners with care needs must stop regarding their homes as “an asset to give to their offspring”, the social care minister has said, as she revived the row over the Conservatives’ so-called “dementia tax”. Jackie Doyle-Price said it was “unfair” for younger taxpayers to “prop up people to keep their property” when it could be sold to help pay for their own care needs. The stark language contrasts with the Tories’ promises last year to make sure that homes people have “worked for and saved for” could be passed on to their children. David Cameron described it at the time as a “natural human instinct”. The Conservatives shelved a controversial manifesto plan to make middle-class pensioners pay towards care they receive in their own homes after it proved hugely unpopular with voters, but critics said the minister’s comments suggested the policy had been “resurrected”.
Older people should be discouraged from treating their homes as an asset to pass on to their children, a minister has said. Jackie Doyle-Price, the social care minister, said that younger workers who paid for their university tuition and who do not own property should not have to pay for the rising social care costs of a more “fortunate” generation though their taxes. Her comments have led to accusations that the government is preparing to reintroduce the “dementia tax”. Theresa May was forced to shelve plans to force older people to spend all but their last £100,000 meeting care costs after the proposals caused an outcry during the election campaign.
THE elderly should sell their homes to pay for care instead of giving them to their kids, the social care minister has suggested. Jackie Doyle-Price said taxpayers should not “prop up people to keep their property” when it could be sold to look after them. Her stance comes despite Tory promises last year that people could pass on the homes they “worked for and saved for”. The comments were in a video from a fringe meeting at the Tory conference, the Daily Telegraph said. Ms Doyle-Price said: “The taxpayer shouldn’t be propping up people to keep their property and hand it on to their children when they’re generating massive care needs. “People who are now well into their pension ages are sitting in houses too big for their needs and we need to have conversations about what’s appropriate earlier.”
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has dismissed Catalan’s independence as a ‘fairy tale’ and warned it would not be recognised by Europe. Today he rejected talks to resolve the crisis and told parliament: ‘There is no mediation possible between democratic law and disobedience, illegality. Catalonia’s separatist leaders on Tuesday signed an independence declaration but said they were suspending it in the hope Madrid would negotiate. Rajoy hit back, calling Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont’s autonomy plan a ‘fairy tale’ and giving him until October 16 to confirm whether or not he has declared independence. Rajoy added: ‘It is not peaceful, it is not free, it will not be recognised by Europe and now everyone knows it will have costs,’ he added. He was referring to several big companies which have moved their headquarters outside of Catalonia in recent days.
Thousands of operations could be cancelled for months this winter, leading medics have warned, as the NHS prepares to announce plans to cope with mounting pressures. The Society for Acute Medicine raised fears that services could be “overwhelmed” by a bad flu season, accusing the Government of doing little more than “crossing fingers” that a crisis can be averted. Health officials will today launch their annual Stay Well This Winter campaign, urging at-risk groups to be vaccinated against flu. It is part of wider attempts to ease pressures on hospitals, with plans to expand the number of A&E consultants in the long-term. Officials are fearful of what will happen if patterns seen in Australia – which has just battled the worst flu season for almost two decades – are replicated here.
Jeremy Hunt will today offer trainee GPs a £20,000 ‘golden hello’ in a desperate bid to get them to work in understaffed practices. The Health Secretary is to announce a one-off payment for junior doctors who move to rural and coastal areas. The bonuses – on top of starting salaries of up to £45,000 – are part of an attempt to stem the growing GP crisis. Mr Hunt will tell the Royal College of GPs conference in Liverpool that the workforce ‘is under considerable pressure’. The £20,000 payments – given to those who do their three-year training in ‘priority areas’ – are almost as much as a nurse’s £22,000 starting salary. GPs who become practice partners can expect to earn an average of £106,000 a year. But amid growing workloads, two in five experienced family doctors say they plan to leave the NHS within five years.
Patients will be routinely treated by doctors’ assistants in A&E units under plans for a tenfold increase in less qualified workers to deal with staff shortages. Hundreds more doctors will also be trained to work in emergency units in the next few years, as health chiefs undertake the biggest expansion of the A&E workforce in over a decade. Doctors’ leaders have praised the plan as finally getting to grips with a staffing crisis in which A&E units have been reliant on expensive locums, promising that patients will get better care. However, others are concerned about the growing role of physician associates, science graduates with two years of training who examine patients and help to decide on treatment.
An asteroid the size of a house was being watched carefully today by astrophysicists as it hurtles “damn close” to Earth. The large space rock, named 2012 TC4, was first spotted five years ago by the Pan-STARRS telescope at the Haleakala Observatory, in Hawaii, before disappearing as it orbits the sun. It then reemerged in July on a trajectory well inside our lunar orbit. Scientists have said the asteroid is on course to pass safely by, just south of Australia, and poses no threat. However it presents space agencies with a rare opportunity to test the planet’s space defences and wargame what they would do if a larger, more threatening asteroid was detected heading straight for Earth.