BREXIT talks with the European Union are likely to run more smoothly if Theresa May wins a convincing victory in next month’s General Election, a senior German politician has said today. Influential MEP Elmar Brok, who is part of the EU parliament’s negotiating team, welcomed the PM’s announcement yesterday and said it should lead to more “professional” discussions. The high-ranking conservative, who is part of Angela Merkel’s party domestically and Jean-Claude Juncker’s grouping in Brussels, said a big majority would allow Mrs May room to “compromise”. But he warned the bloc would stand firm if she used an enlarged mandate to become too “intransigent” over Britain’s red lines and repeated the mantra that the UK has more to lose from Brexit than the EU. Mr Brok is just the latest senior European figure to welcome the PM’s decision to hold an election, with many officials in Brussels hoping it will help provide clarity ahead of the talks formally starting.
Theresa May will place a triple lock on Brexit in the Tory manifesto to stop obstruction by diehard Remainers. Tory sources say she is set to include specific pledges to overcome opposition within her party and in the Lords. The manifesto is expected to commit the Conservatives to ending EU free movement and pulling out of both the single market and European Court of Justice. Senior Tories see the three measures as essential in delivering last year’s referendum result. One insider said Tory Remainers would be required to sign up to the package, ‘locking them in’. Including the pledges in the manifesto will also make it much harder for peers to block Brexit.
Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair has fuelled speculation he is ready to work with the Lib Dems to fight Brexit in the general election, urging voters to back any candidate opposing leaving the European Union (EU). He said “unique circumstances demand a unique response” and that “this should cross party lines” in an unprecedented 1,200-word statement last night. According to The Telegraph, Senior Liberal Democrats have “confirmed” Mr. Blair “could” join forces with Lib Dem leader Tim Farron to campaign against Brexit at the 2017 general election. Mr. Farron responded on Wednesday, however, tell LBC radio that sharing a platform with Mr. Blair is “not on the cards”. “I have only heard that via another journalist. I have had no invitation so far,” he said, but added: “I take the view that it is good to work with people in other parties.”
NICK Clegg has vowed to help sabotage Theresa May’s bid to pull the UK out of the single market. The former Lib Dem leader tore into the Prime Minister’s plans for a ‘hard Brexit‘ during a Sky News interview. He said his beleaguered party would fight the move, claiming it would be “economically damaging and self-harming”. And he insisted whatever deal Mrs May agrees with Brussels will be “inferior” to what Britain currently has as an EU member. Mr Clegg, who was deputy PM between 2010 and 2015, used the interview to lay out the Lib Dems’ stance on Brexit. He said: “Firstly, we will be the effective opposition leading the fight against the hard Brexit which Theresa May is pursuing. “And secondly, we want to give the people the right to have another say on whether they agree with her final deal.”
Labour is considering making a pledge that would give voters the chance to reject any Brexit deal negotiated by a future government. Senior party figures are understood to be pushing Jeremy Corbyn to include a promise for a so-called second referendum in Labour’s manifesto. They hope the plan would firm up Labour support among former Remain voters, while making clear that they will not seek to stop or reverse Brexit. The proposal is yet to be signed off by either the leader or Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary. He is understood to have reservations about the plan, fearing that it would become meaningless in the face of any transition arrangement that is negotiated.
BRUSSELS today confirmed that “real” negotiations on Brexit will not start until after the UK’s General Election is held on June 8. EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the “real political negotiations” would not begin until British voters have gone to the polls and chosen their next prime minister. Officials said the Brussels boss had agreed the stance with Theresa May during a late phone call to Downing Street last night. However, they insisted that the move does not amount to a “postponement” of the Brexit talks and said the UK election fits within the EU’s pre-deterimned timeframe for the talks. EU Commission chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas said: “The president considers that the real political negotiations on Article 50 with the UK will start after the elections foreseen for the 8th of June.”
Theresa May is being forced into a concession over migrant targets as part of the price for calling a snap poll. The prime minister is ready to soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals, The Times has learnt. Mrs May has repeatedly rejected calls from cabinet ministers including Boris Johnson, Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd to exempt students from the pledge to reduce the number of net migrants arriving in Britain each year to the tens of thousands. Now she is offering to change the way that student numbers are calculated, with the promise of further concessions. The compromise is an attempt to ensure that an overhaul of the university system can pass through parliament in the next week.
Security measures are being put in place to prevent any attempt by Russia or other foreign powers to carry out a cyber attack during the upcoming general election. The National Cyber Security Centre will coordinate the operation to safeguard Government departments as well as political parties. The Independent reported in February that parties had sought help from security agencies following cyber attacks during the 2015 election and the alleged hacking of Democratic Party emails by Vladimir Putin’s government to help Donald Trump win the US presidential election. Ciaran Martin, the head of the National Cyber Security Centre, subsequently held talks with political parties at the end of last month on safeguarding their data and electronic communications.
THERESA May’s General Election got the green light yesterday — as she accused Jeremy Corbyn of plotting a tax raid on working people to fund a £500billion spree. The Prime Minister won a giant Commons majority to authorise going to the country on June 8, three years early. The Tory leader then immediately hit the campaign trail and accused Labour chief Jeremy Corbyn of wanting to unleash £500billion extra spending — dwarfing his party’s tax bombshell of the 1992 election. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell threatened a fresh assault on the better off yesterday, with hefty tax rises for people who earn more than £70,000 if Labour win. But Mrs May lashed out to insist Mr Corbyn would “bankrupt our economy, weaken our defences and is simply not fit to lead”.
Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka has called for the European Union (EU) to seal the Mediterranean route after 9,000 migrants were ferried from Africa during Easter weekend. The minister told local media that closing the route and securing Europe’s external borders “is the only way to end the tragic and senseless dying in the Mediterranean. “A rescue in the open sea cannot be a ticket to Europe, because it gives criminal gangs every argument to persuade people to escape their countries for economic reasons.” Asked about measures Austria has in place to cope with a sudden influx of migrants over its border with Italy, Sobotka said the nation is now “equipped and able to ramp up controls within hours”. Last year, Austria backed closing the Western Balkan route used by migrants seeking to enter the more wealthy nations in Europe.
The European Union is officially beginning to shut British companies out of contracts and encouraging businesses to set up new offices on the Continent. In an internal memorandum signed by the European Commission’s most senior officials, sent out a week after Britain triggered Article 50 exit procedures, all staff were told to avoid “unnecessary additional complications” with Britain before Brexit. It instructs EU officials to encourage private sector companies to prepare for the “legal repercussions” of British withdrawal and “to have an office in the EU” to maintain their operating permits. The EU’s crime-fighting and immigration organisations have been told to prepare to “disconnect” Britain.
ITALY’S main eurosceptic party has soared to a six point poll lead as Sweden’s populists gained ground in the aftermath of the terror attack on Stockholm. The anti-euro Five Star Movement (M5S) rocketed to 31.5 per cent of the vote in a recent poll, pulling well ahead of the ruling socialists who are languishing on 25 per cent. At the same time the nationalist Sweden Democrats, who have pledged to hold a Swexit referendum, saw their lead extend to four per cent in the first survey to be carried out since the horror attack in the country’s capital. The latest results indicate that the populist uprising gripping some of Europe’s biggest countries shows little sign of abating, with both Italy and Sweden due to hold elections next year. They come at a difficult time for the European Union, which is facing a nerve-wracking contest in France which is being shaken up by anti-EU contenders Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Melenchon.
BRUSSELS today issued a withering putdown to Brexit secretary David Davis and insisted that Britain will have “no say” over the relocation of EU agencies headquartered in London. In a stinging political rebuke top eurocrats ridiculed the Government’s suggestion it could hold on to two of the bloc’s top institutions even after the UK has left. The EU Commission this morning insisted that the European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency will be moving to the continent before March 2019. And in a sharp slap down it insisted that the fate of the bodies will not form part of the Brexit negotiations, saying ministers will have “no say” over their future. Britain stunned senior EU figures last week when Mr Davis announced that it would fight to keep hold of the two agencies, which regulate financial services and medicines within the single market.
Two EU agencies employing more than 1,000 in London will definitely move to the continent, despite UK attempts to keep them after Brexit, officials say. The British government said this week that their location would be decided during Brexit talks. But a European Commission spokesman has insisted they should move to the EU. “The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union and it will have no say in the location of EU agencies,” said Margaritis Schinas. The European Medicines Agency has 897 staff while the European Banking Authority employs 159 people, and the UK’s decision to leave the EU has prompted interest from several EU countries in hosting the two highly specialised organisations.
The Prime Minister has opened the door to dropping the UK’s international aid target by refusing to confirm that it will be retained in the next Tory manifesto. Theresa May declined to commit to the target when pressed by one of her own MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions today. The aid target of spending 0.7 per cent of GNI on development assistance is unpopular with some right-wing newspapers and politicians, but was supported by David Cameron’s government as a way of helping the poorest. Conservative MP Richard Benyon said he was proud of both “the commitment to NATO to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence and our commitment to the UN to spend 0.7 per cent of GNI on overseas aid”. He asked Ms May: “Will my right hon. Friend please commit the future Conservative Government to do the same?” The Prime Minister responded by agreeing a commitment to to the Nato target but would only say the UK was currently “meeting our UN commitment”.
THERESA May yesterday fuelled speculation about a mass clear out of David Cameron’s policies by refusing to rule out scrapping the annual target for spending taxpayers’ cash on foreign aid. In a first hint of her plans for the Tory general election manifesto, the Prime Minister pointedly declined to commit her party to continuing meeting the United Nations benchmark of lavishing 0.7% of the nation’s national income on projects in developing countries. Several Cabinet ministers are understood to want to drop the target, which is intensely unpopular among many voters. Other policies inherited from her predecessor could include pledges not to raise a series of taxes including national insurance along with a commitment to guarantee above-inflation annual rises in the state pension. Mrs May was yesterday invited to reaffirm her commitment to both the 0.7% aid target and to a separate promise of spending 2% of national income on defence.
Marine Le Pen focused on Islamist terrorism and the threat to France from immigrants on Wednesday night in her final rally before this weekend’s fiercely contested presidential election first round. The Front National leader targeted security concerns as she addressed supporters in Marseille, the multi-ethnic southern city where two men were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of planning to attack a presidential candidate. Her rival candidates were happy to let “immigrants turn France into a gigantic squat,” she argued. “Are we going to be able to live as French for much longer when entire neighbourhoods are taken over by foreigners?” she said, adding to wild applause and cheering. “A multicultural society is a multi-conflict society.” Ms Le Pen has spent years trying to broaden support for the party founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, but she appears to have suspended much of that approach in the final days of rallying before Sunday’s first round of voting.
Marine Le Pen pledged to end mass immigration, confront the EU and restore French sovereignty during a campaign speech in front of 5,000 supporters last night. The National Front leader was speaking at a rally in Marseilles that was touted by her advisers as a launchpad towards a historic triumph for the far right in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday. Promising to sweep aside France’s traditional political parties, Ms Le Pen, 48, said: “I want to issue a call to all the French people for an insurrection, a democratic and peaceful insurrection.”
Point a high-powered telescope at the constellation Cetus, the sea monster, and it is just possible to make out a dim red dwarf star shining in the tail. Although it might seem unspectacular, orbiting around that star is a rocky planet that could hold the answer to whether we are alone in the universe. Scientists say the planet is a ‘Super-Earth’ which is the best place to look for signs of life outside of the Solar System. Early indications suggest is has an atmosphere, and sits within the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ where it is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist. And it is only 40 light years from Earth meaning that it could be possible to send a signal. “This is the most exciting exoplanet I’ve seen in the past decade,” said lead author Jason Dittmann of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
The newfound planet in the Sea Monster constellation is huddled so close to its feeble star that its years last only 25 of our days. With about half the warmth that we get from our sun, it is likely to be uncomfortably chilly. Even if you could travel at the speed of light it would take you half a lifetime to get there. It is, in other words, not much of a package holiday destination. Yet this Earth-like world has joined the select club of planets that are temperate enough to be capable of supporting life — and close enough that we would be able to spot the tell-tale signs of the chemistry of life.
ALIEN world LHS1140b is being hailed as the most likely place in the universe for extraterrestrials to live and thrive. This is due to the rocky planet’s potential for having liquid water on its surface. Science boffins have scoured the deepest parts of space – but are yet to find surface water on any other planet. Lead author of the discovery Jason Dittmann described the ‘Super Earth’ as one of the best discoveries ever in space. He said: “This is the most exciting exoplanet I’ve seen in the past decade. “We could hardly hope for a better target to perform one of the biggest quests in science — searching for evidence of life beyond Earth.”