Brexit

Independent
Tony Blair has launched a blistering attack on what he calls Labour’s “confusing” and “mistaken” stance on Brexit. In a major intervention, the former Prime Minister warned that voters will not find Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to EU withdrawal “credible”. Mr Blair singled out senior figures in Mr Corbyn’s top team – including his key ally John McDonnell – as having made apparently contradictory remarks on the party’s proposals. He concluded that if the country does leave, then Labour’s “timidity” will bear responsibility alongside Tory right-wingers who have been pushing for Brexit. It comes just days after 
The Independent  reported how insiders fear Labour is heading for a “reckoning” – with the party apparently backing Brexit, but many supporters still believing it is opposed. In a 2,400-word article published on his own website, Mr Blair dissected what he believes is the central contradiction in the Government’s approach – that it is incorrectly suggesting it can have the benefits of the single market without following its rules.

BBC News
Tony Blair has attacked Labour’s “timidity” on Brexit, saying it would deliver a departure from the EU designed by the “Tory right”. He urged the party he once led to “nail” the “myths” of the Brexit campaign – and fight for the rights of voters to “think again” about leaving. He said 2018 would be the year the fate of Britain would be decided. Labour has backed Brexit and ruled out a second referendum if it wins power. Britain is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, but Mr Blair said it would be too late to change course by then. Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer says Labour will push for a deal that would preserve as many of the benefits of the single market and customs union as possible, as well as protecting workers’ rights and the environment. But Mr Blair believes this is a “confusing” strategy and is not “credible”. “Far better to fight for the right for the country to re-think, demand that we know the full details of the new relationship before we quit the old one, go to the high ground on opposing Brexit and go after the Tories for their failures to tackle the country’s real challenges. “Make Brexit the Tory Brexit. Make them own it 100%. Show people why Brexit isn’t and never was the answer.” Mr Blair – a longstanding critic of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – has ditched his business interests to take a more active role in British politics through his Institute for Global Change think tank.

Guardian
Labour will become “the handmaiden of Brexit” if it continues to prevaricate and be timid over the issue, Tony Blair has warned in a passionate call for the party he formerly led to oppose the government on leaving the EU. In a lengthy article published on his own website, coinciding with the release of a report from his political institute detailing the current state of play over Brexit, Blair reiterates his call for the British people to have the final decision on whether the withdrawal from the EU goes ahead or not. Describing 2018 as “the year when the fate of Brexit and thus of Britain will be decided”, Blair is open about his opposition to leaving the EU and argues that the 2016 referendum cannot be seen as binding as it contained no detail on what a post-Brexit future would involve. Much of the 2,300-word article lambasts the Conservatives’ plans on Brexit as contradictory and confusing, saying it is absurd for ministers to pretend the UK can replicate the benefits of the EU’s single market and customs union while accepting none of the rules. But he ends with a plea to Labour to “be on the high ground of progressive politics, explaining why membership of the European Union is right as a matter of principle, for profound political as well as economic reasons”. 
Blair argues that Labour’s current ambiguity on the issue is a tactical error as it means the party cannot fully attack Theresa May’s government for neglecting issues such as the NHS and policing amid an all-consuming focus on Brexit.

ITV News
Tony Blair has attacked Labour’s “timidity”, warning it will usher in Brexit should the party continue to back leaving the European Union and the single market. Criticising the party he once led, the former prime minister said Labour was wrong “strategically” and “mistaken” tactically over exiting the EU, and should instead look to “make Brexit the Tory Brexit”. “First, because the Labour Party is saying that we too would do Brexit, we cannot attack its vast distructive impact,” he said. “Labour could mount such a powerful assault on the Government’s record from the appalling state of the NHS to crime, which through neglect and failure to support the police is on the rise again, if we were saying to the country: here’s the agenda which could be delivered for the people were it not for the fact that all the energies of Government and substantial amounts of cash are devoted to Brexit. “And, second, it puts us in a vulnerable position when the Government concludes ‘the deal’ some time in 2018.” Blair said it would be “far better to fight for the right for the country to re-think”, and demand full details of the new relationship before leaving. He suggested going “to the high ground on opposing Brexit and go after the Tories for their failures to tackle the country’s real challenges”.

Sky News
Tony Blair has said 2018 will be the year the “fate of Brexit” is decided, as he hit out at Labour’s “mistaken” stance on Britain’s EU divorce. The former prime minister said the next 12 months will be crucial as 2017 was “too early in the negotiation” and by 2019 it will be “too late” to have a say on whether Britain’s future relationship with Brussels is better than the current arrangements. In the latest in a string of interventions since the June 2016 referendum, Mr Blair attacked Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, saying the party’s “timidity” over Europe under his leadership will usher in Brexit if it continues. Mr Blair’s comments quickly provoked the ire of Brexit supporters. The campaign group Leave Means Leave said voters would take no notice of a leader “who took us to war on a lie and who cannot admit when he is wrong”, the former accusation a reference to controversial Iraq War in 2003. In his call for his successor to radically alter his approach, Mr Blair urged Labour to “make Brexit the Tory Brexit”.

Bolton

Mail
Ukip’s leader admitted last night that he had left his 42-year-old wife for a model aged just 25. Henry Bolton, 54, who took over from Paul Nuttall last September, confirmed that he had started a relationship in recent weeks with Jo Marney, a party member from Kent. Miss Marney, who describes herself as a model, actor and journalist, appears to have spent a good amount of time with Mr Bolton over Christmas and has posted Facebook pictures of them together.  She posted one picture showing Mr Bolton with his arm around her on December 16, with the caption: ‘Fantastic Xmas dinner with our leader Henry Bolton.’  On Boxing Day she posted a picture of them together in a bar along with a heart. She wrote: ‘Fantastic Boxing Day drinks with Henry Bolton.’ Then on December 29, she posted a picture that appears to just show Mr Bolton’s feet with Union Jack socks. 

Sun
UKIP’S new leader has left his wife for a topless model 25 years his junior. Twice-wed ex-Army captain Henry Bolton, 54, spent Christmas with 29-year-old Jo Marney and has introduced her to party bigwigs. She describes herself as a “model, actor and Brexiteer” — and her social media mixes pro-Brexit pieces with scantily-clad snaps. Tonight a friend told The Sun: “It certainly took us all by surprise, but Jo is one of the Ukip family now. “She’s lovely and clever and wants to help and support Henry.” Dad-of-three Mr Bolton referred to his Russian wife Tatiana as “supportive” when he pulled off a shock victory to take over the party from Nigel Farage last September. But tonight he said they had split in July. Mr Bolton, wearing slippers, answered the door at Jo’s family home near Maidstone in Kent. Asked if they were in a relationship, he replied: “The answer is yes, I’m here just visiting for the moment. “My wife is fully aware of what’s been going on and has been abroad since July.”

Express
Ukip leader Henry Bolton has started a relationship with a “model, actor and Brexiteer” 28 years his junior after splitting up with his wife, it has been revealed. Ukip leader Henry Bolton has started a relationship with a “model, actor and Brexiteer” 28 years his junior after splitting up with his wife, it has been revealed. Mr Bolton, who took over as leader of the party last September from Nigel Farage, admitted last night that he started a relationship recently with Jo Marney – a 25-year-old model and party member from Kent. Appearing in slippers when answering the door at Ms Marney’s home near Maidstone in Kent, he was asked about the relationship and replied: “The answer is yes, I’m here just visiting for the moment. “My wife is fully aware of what’s been going on and has been abroad since July.” Ms Marney describes herself as a Brexiteer and her social media mixes pro-Brexit pieces with glamour photos. On Boxing Day she tweeted a picture of Mr Bolton with a purple heart, which is the UKIP Party colour. The UKIP leader posted on social media on New Year’s Day: “Myself and Jo Marney nearly run over by George Osborne in Covent Garden.”

NHS

Times
Health bosses are failing to declare millions of pounds received from drug companies, an investigation has found. Pharmaceutical giants have bought tickets to sports matches and pop concerts for NHS officials as well as sponsoring training events and meetings, the British Medical Journal revealed. However, only £1,283,767 of £5,027,818 paid from 2015 to 2017 was declared on public registers. Experts said it was inappropriate for clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), the GP-led bodies in charge of buying health services for their local areas, to accept funding from the private sector. CCGs released data on payments from private companies and charities under the Freedom of Information Act.

Independent
Jeremy Hunt has apologised to patients after tens of thousands of non-urgent operations were postponed in England. The Health Secretary admitted there were “real pressures” facing the health service as NHS England urged hospitals to defer routine procedures such as hip replacements until the end of January to free up hospital beds and staff, amid reports many hospitals were plunged into crisis over the festive period. Mr Hunt said the move, which could lead to up to 55,000 routine operations being delayed, was “absolutely not what I want” but conceded that hospitals were under huge pressure from the ageing population and a spike in flu and respiratory diseases. Meanwhile, Theresa May acknowledged the news was frustrating for affected patients but said the NHS was “better prepared for this winter than ever before”. However, critics said the situation was putting patients at risk, with former Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb warning  there was “no doubt that patients will die and families will suffer” because of the pressure the NHS is under. Mr Hunt told Sky News: “There are real pressures, no doubt about it. This is the busiest week of the year for the NHS and the first thing I want to say is a massive thank you to NHS staff who are working incredibly long hours, throughout the night and beyond the call of duty in every possible way.

Mail
Jeremy Hunt last night called for a ten-year strategy to adapt the health service – as Tories rounded on Labour for ‘politicising’ a health crisis they insist is afflicting Western nations. The Health Secretary acknowledged that the  NHS  would need more cash in the coming years to cope with an ageing population. But ministers bridled at Labour claims the current crisis – which forced the NHS to cancel thousands of operations – was the result of funding cuts. An ally of Mr Hunt pointed out that the Welsh NHS, which is under the stewardship of Labour, has suffered similar problems – if not worse – while countries from Australia to France have been hit by serious flu outbreaks in recent months. They said: ‘It is irresponsible and wrong for Labour to try to politicise the current situation – the problems are worse in Wales and Scotland. France has had a million people with flu. There is a long-term funding situation which we have to address as a society. But that is not what the current situation is about.’ Parts of the health establishment appear to have tried to exploit the crisis too. Consultant Anu Mitra said staff were forced to carry out ‘battlefield medicine’, although he later apologised to military doctors who practice ‘actual battlefield medicine’. On Tuesday, another consultant, Richard Fawcett at Royal Stoke University Hospital, described conditions there as being like the ‘third world’.

Guardian
NHS providers, doctors and patients have joined opposition parties in accusing the government of failing to stop the growing crisis in the NHS this winter. Pressure on the health service in England continues to mount with at least 21 trusts – many responsible for multiple hospitals – on black alert, known as opel 4, on Wednesday. Hospitals are forced to announce this when they can no longer guarantee patient safety and provide their full range of services. In Somerset, three trusts – Yeovil district hospital, Taunton and Somerset and Somerset Partnership – were operating at the highest alert level. Bristol North Somerset and South Gloucestershire were in similar positions. Ashford and St Peter’s hospital trust in Surrey declared it was on black alert and had had “very high A&E attendances over the last few days”, with 320 patients in the department on Tuesday. In an email to staff, Valerie Bartlett, the trust’s deputy chief executive, said: “We also have 80 patients classed as medical outliers – where due to lack of space on our medical wards they are being cared for on other wards … this is not best practice in terms of providing the best and safest care for our patients and has a knock-on effect for planned surgery.” Many more trusts that reported problems refused to disclose their alert level because they were no longer obliged to do so by NHS guidelines. A lot of trusts that said they were not at black alert level admitted to being under pressure.

Farming

Independent
Michael Gove will set out proposals to replace EU farming subsidies with new incentives to reward landowners for environmentally friendly practices after Brexit. The Environment Secretary plans to scrap the much-criticised  Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in favour of subsidies for farmers who try to enhance the natural environment by planting woods, creating wildflower meadows and providing habitats for wildlife. A leading figure in the Leave campaign,  Mr Gove has vowed to deliver a “Green Brexit” by using Britain’s departure from the bloc as an opportunity to transform agriculture and revitalise the countryside. In a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference, he is expected to say: “I want to develop a new method of providing financial support for farmers which moves away from subsidies for inefficiency to public money for public goods.” Warning that the CAP is “fundamentally flawed by design”, Mr Gove will outline a major shake-up in how farmers receive funding, where they will bid for cash based on environmental benefits delivered on their land.

Express
FARMERS should continue to receive their £3.1billion in annual subsidies currently set by the EU for five years after the UK leaves the bloc, Michael Gove will signal today. In a move designed to help British food producers plan for Brexit, the Environment Secretary is to indicate his support for the Government guaranteeing the payments at their present level until 2024. He will say the time is needed to avoid a sudden shock when the country quits the “unjust” Brussels Common Agricultural Policy. “I want to give farmers and land managers time and tools to adapt to the future so we can avoid a precipitate cliff edge but also prepare properly for the changes which are coming,” the Tory Cabinet minister will say. And in a swipe at the widely-criticised Brussels farming payments system, he will add: “We can, and must, do better.” Mr Gove, who helped lead the Leave campaign in the run up to the 2016 EU referendum, will use a keynote speech today at the Oxford Farming Conference to set out his latest thinking on how the agricultural sector will change after the break with Brussels due in March 2019. He will confirm his desire to scrap the “fundamentally flawed” EU system of paying lavish handouts to wealthy landowners to maintain outdated farming practises. 

BBC News
UK farmers are to receive the same level of subsidies they receive from the EU for five years after Brexit, the government is to promise. Environment Secretary Michael Gove will tell farmers the current system of payments based on the land they own will continue until March 2024. The subsidies – now £3bn a year – will then be replaced by a system to encourage environmental improvements. Meanwhile, a report warns Brexit trade deals could threaten UK food security. MPs and peers in the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology (AAPG) say ministers must ensure famers are not undermined by future trade deals which permit imports of food produced with lower welfare or environmental standards. Mr Gove, who has promised that standards would not be compromised post-Brexit, is due to address two farmers’ conferences in Oxford later. His speech comes ahead of the government’s agriculture plans being published this spring.

Policing

Times
The war on powerful crime syndicates has been hampered by cuts to neighbourhood policing even though the threat outstrips that from terrorism, a senior officer has said. Bobbies on the beat deliver crucial intelligence and help to combat a culture of silence in communities blighted by gang violence, extortion and drug addiction, Chief Constable Andy Cooke, who co-ordinates the fight against serious organised crime, said. He added that the rising tide of violence, including knife and gun crime, as well as the associated rise in drug deaths, made organised crime the greatest threat facing Britain. He added that homegrown British syndicates still dominated, despite the influence of international criminal enterprises with links to the UK’s settled migrant communities.

Earthquakes

Star
THE number of devastating earthquakes this year could increase dramatically because of changes in the Earth’s rotation, experts fear. Boffins have discovered a link between massive Magnitude 7 or greater quakes and the Earth’s rotation since 1900. They found periods where the number of large earthquakes rocketed from 15 to as many as 30 a year. And these periods had all followed a slowing down of the Earth’s rotation which could be as little as a millisecond a day. The Earth began rotating slower four years ago so the spike in mega earthquakes could happen in 2018, based on this theory. The link was uncovered by Roger Bilham and Rebecca Bendick from the universities of Colorado and Montana in America. “The Earth is offering us a five-year heads-up on future earthquakes, which is remarkable,” said Mr Bilham. “Next year we should see a significant increase in numbers of severe earthquakes. “We could easily have 20 a year starting in 2018.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email