Brexit

Times
Theresa May was handed the power last night to pull Britain out of the European Union as parliament voted for the final time to pass the government’s Article 50 bill. By a majority of 45 (331 votes to 286), the Commons rejected an amendment from the Lords that would have given parliament an effective veto on Mrs May walking out of Brexit talks without a deal. They also rejected, by 335 votes to 287 votes, another amendment that would have guaranteed the rights of European citizens now living in the UK after Brexit. Despite an attempt by Liberal Democrat peers to reinstate the changes, the Lords voted overwhelmingly to respect the will of the Commons and pass the bill into law unamended.

Express
THE Queen was poised to sign Britain’s Brexit into law as early as this morning, it emerged yesterday as Parliament prepared to pass the crucial legislation to put last year’s historic referendum vote into action. A copy of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was set to be raced to Buckingham Palace for the monarch to give her Royal Assent – possibly at her desk after breakfast when she customarily deals with official papers. But Theresa May confounded predictions she would today exercise the power newly conferred on her by the legislation to trigger up to two years of formal exit talks with the EU. The Prime Minister is now expected to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty towards the end of the month – just before her self-imposed deadline of March 31.

Guardian
Theresa May’s Brexit bill has cleared all its hurdles in the Houses of Parliament, opening the way for the prime minister to trigger article 50 by the end of March. Peers accepted the supremacy of the House of Commons late on Monday night after MPs overturned amendments aimed at guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK and giving parliament a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal. The decision came after a short period of so-called “ping pong” when the legislation bounced between the two houses of parliament as a result of disagreement over the issues. The outcome means the government has achieved its ambition of passing a “straightforward” two-line bill that is confined simply to the question of whether ministers can trigger article 50 and start the formal Brexit process.  It had been widely predicted in recent days that May would fire the starting gun on Tuesday, immediately after the vote, but sources quashed speculation of quick action and instead suggested she will wait until the final week of March.

BBC News
Parliament has passed the Brexit bill, paving the way for the government to trigger Article 50 so the UK can leave the European Union. Peers backed down over the issues of EU residency rights and a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal after their objections were overturned by MPs. The bill is expected to receive Royal Assent and become law on Tuesday. This means Theresa May is free to push the button on withdrawal talks – now expected in the last week of March. The result came as Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that she intended to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence at a time when Brexit negotiations are expected to be reaching a conclusion. Ms Sturgeon said she wanted a vote to be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

Westmonster
After a referendum campaign, court action and meddling from the unelected House of Lords, the Brexit Bill has finally been passed by Parliament unamended. Despite the best efforts of pro-EU Lords, MPs overturned their interference on Brexit and we now await the Queen giving Royal Assent this morning over breakfast. That then allows the Prime Minister to get on with invoking Article 50 to formally kick off negotiations for the UK to leave the European Union. It has been a slow, frustrating process. But it would seem that finally, the country is on the road to independence.

Sky News
The Brexit bill has been approved by Parliament, allowing Theresa May to trigger Article 50 and begin the process of leaving the European Union. With no opposition from Labour, the House of Lords backed down in their attempts to amend the bill following an earlier vote in the Commons. MPs rejected a Lords amendment to guarantee the status of EU nationals resident in the UK by a margin of 335 votes to 287. They also overturned a second amendment, which would have required the Government to grant Parliament a “meaningful” vote on the Brexit deal eventually secured by Mrs May, by 331 votes to 286.

Mirror
Theresa May was finally given the green light to trigger Brexit tonight after her Article 50 Bill cleared its final hurdle in Parliament. After weeks of battling and debate, the Prime Minister is now set to begin Britain’s two-year withdrawal from the EU within just two weeks. Downing Street indicated Mrs May will wait until the final week of March to start the two-year Brexit process – with Monday 27th currently pencilled in as the most likely date. The PM was forced to deny claims she had been planning to trigger Article 50 tomorrow, but was scared off by the unexpected timing of Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for a second independence referendum for Scotland. Mrs May’s official spokesman said: “We have been clear that the PM will trigger Article 50 by the END of March,” he said, straining to emphasise the word ‘end’.

Sun
EXPERTS who delivered the London Olympics have been recruited to help with Brexit, a top civil servant has revealed. Department of Exiting the EU boss Sarah Healey said it’s “essential we learn” from the last major negotiation Britain took part in. The EU Director General said it was a no brainier as the Olympics required a similar cross-Whitehall effort to deliver and there are “lessons to be drawn” from the success of London 2012. And the top mandarin hit back at claims made by ex-EU ambassador Sir Ivan Rogers, who dramatically quit in January over claims Brexit was being steamrolled by the PM. She told the Institute of Government: “I’ve worked for a vast range of ministers in my career and never felt I couldn’t say what was correct, never felt I couldn’t speak truth to power.” And she rejected reports that the new Brexit Department set up by Theresa May last July had struggled to hire top civil servants – saying claims otherwise were “fundamentally untrue.”

EU

BBC News
The UK has been told it will not have to agree the exact sum of its financial exit settlement in the early stages after Article 50 has been triggered, BBC Newsnight has learned. A message has been passed through informal channels from EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to top figures in David Davis’s department. The UK would first have to agree the broad principles of the payment. The principles for EU citizens in the UK would then have to be agreed. Once these two principles have been agreed – on the financial settlement payment and EU citizens – Mr Barnier is prepared to open up the negotiations to cover all areas and the nature of the UK’s future relations with the EU. This would meet the UK demand for the negotiations on the UK’s future trade deal with the EU to be discussed in parallel with the Article 50 talks. Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 – which have to be concluded within two years – in the final week of March.

Express
POLAND today accused the rest of the European Union of “double standards and cheating” and vowed to block future EU initiatives in a sensational revenge plot over its treatment at last week’s Brussels summit. In an extraordinarily savage attack on the entire euro project Warsaw’s foreign minister effectively accused the rest of the club of ganging up on his country and stabbing it in the back over the re-election of Donald Tusk.  Witold Waszczykowski vowed Poland would not go down without a fight, saying it would start vetoing major projects backed by other EU countries in revenge, a tactic which could completely paralyse the bloc.  The move shows how the cavernous rift which opened up between Warsaw and the other 27 member states over the appointment of the top eurocrat and support for a two-speed Europe has now developed into a full-blown diplomatic crisis. What began as a dispute over the EU Council chief’s suitability for office has rapidly escalated into all-out verbal warfare, with Poland launching a series of increasingly fierce attacks on other members. 

Westmonster
One of the EU’s unelected Commissioners, Vera Jourova, has warned that countries within the EU such as Poland who do not do as they are told may be stripped of funding  moving forward. Countries like Poland and Hungary have become increasingly outspoken at the way that the EU is increasingly being dominated by a small clique including the Germans and the French. Tensions are now building, with EU Commissioner Jourova warning that the distribution of EU funds may become dependent on upholding ‘EU values’. In other words sit down, shut up and do as you are told. The squeeze on the EU’s finances is no secret. With the UK cash cow soon departing, there seems to be a growing element of panic in Brussels. Will Poland allow its democratic principles to be bought and sold? You wouldn’t have thought this system could survive for much longer.

Breitbart
Turkey’s minister in charge of European Union affairs says his country should consider reviewing its migration deal with the EU and relax controls on people reaching Europe over land. Omer Celik’s comments, reported by the state-run Anadolu Agency, came amid tensions with the Netherlands and other European countries over Turkish ministers traveling abroad to court Turkish citizens’ votes in an upcoming referendum. Turkey agreed last year to work to keep migrants from crossing into the EU in return for funds to help it deal with some 3 million refugees. Anadolu quoted Celik as saying the EU had not kept its side of the bargain. He added: “In my opinion, the issue of the land passages should be reviewed.” However, Celik said Turkey should maintain controls to prevent sea crossings that claimed hundreds of lives.

Scotland

Mail
In a bold move commensurate with someone far taller, the Ginger Dwarf from the North has declared there will be a second once-in-a-lifetime referendum. Not only that, but this second once-in-a-lifetime referendum even has a date: between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, once the Scots have had a chance to see exactly what the post-Brexit apocalypse looks like. By then, according to the prophesying powers of our wise son-of-a-bus-driver mayor, Sadiq Khan from Londonistan, we will surely all be languishing in a bloodied, repentant mess on the rocks, having leapt in our ignorance over the edge of the cliff of doom.

Telegraph
Theresa May has ruled out Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a new Scottish independence referendum before Brexit, but postponed triggering Article 50 after the First Minister’s demands caught her by surprise. In a day of high drama, Ms Sturgeon appeared to wrong-foot No 10 when she announced she would set the wheels in motion for a second referendum next week, and insisted the ballot should take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 – while the Brexit negotiations are still going on. The Prime Minister issued a stern rebuke, telling her “politics is not a game”, and accusing her of “tunnel  vision”. Sources close to Mrs May said she would not allow a referendum until  several months after Britain’s EU exit. Hours after Mrs May’s riposte, Downing Street made the unexpected announcement that the Prime Minister will not now invoke Article 50 before March 27.

UKIP
UKIP’s Scottish MEP David Coburn: “The prospect of a second independence referendum between the Autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019 is utterly preposterous. “The UK will still be in negotiations with the EU at this time – the SNP seem to wish to cause maximum disruption, uncertainty and overall mayhem. “In 2014 the Scottish people decided decisively to remain British, in 2016 less people voted to remain in the EU than voted to be British in 2014. “The SNP want to be “in control” not at the “mercy”, have they been asleep whilst Greece has simply been bullied by the EU and when The Republic of Ireland twice voted the wrong way in a referendum and were forced to vote again courtesy of the EU. “Scotland as an EU member would be simply insignificant in comparison to Germany and France and we would simply follow or be told how to follow. “What the SNP are proposing for Scotland is a future of ‘austerity Max”. The very idea that it would be advantageous for us to leave the UK for a berth as a small but proud nation in the EU is foolish. We would be condemned to an austere damaging regime that would skip us of autonomy and and leave us open to penal austerity measures such as those imposed on other small nations.

Star
LADBROKES has become one of the first bookmakers to back YES as the most likely outcome of the planned second Scottish referendum. Nicola Sturgeon revealed today she will seek permission to trigger a second vote on independence in the Scottish parliament next week. And now bookmakers Ladbrokes believe if she gets her way, Scotland will leave the United Kingdom. They have made a Yes to independence a narrow favourite at 8/11, while a No vote is quoted at 11/10. Matthew Shaddick of Ladbrokes said: “Indyref mark two looks all set now and whilst not all Scottish voters may be looking forward to another campaign, bookies are anticipating another huge political betting showdown.” The price of a referendum before 2020 has been slashed to 4/6, while the most likely date is 2018 at 7/4. Odds on a 2021 referendum or later stand at 11/10, with odds for a 2019 referendum quoted at 5/2.

NHS

Mail
Junior doctors may have to work for the NHS for more than five years after they graduate – or pay back their training costs. Announcing the plan last night, Jeremy Hunt stressed that it costs the taxpayer £230,000 to train each doctor in England. Under current rules, students are free to leave the health service as soon as they finish their degree, although most put in at least two years’ work to qualify for registration with the General Medical Council. But the Health Secretary, who will today launch a public consultation, wants to tie doctors to the NHS longer-term, by adopting rules already used by the armed forces. Mr Hunt will ask how long a minimum term of service should be, with the longest option given as ‘more than five years’. Hundreds of junior doctors are thought to have abandoned NHS careers after last year’s bruising row over working hours. That argument, which saw doctors walk out on strike several times, ended when Mr Hunt forced through a new contract despite British Medical Association opposition. Many doctors are thought to have left the UK to work in Australia and New Zealand, while others have taken up lucrative locum and agency jobs. Mr Hunt’s proposal would stop doctors taking that option.

ITV News
Patients are being left for hours in pain due to NHS rationing, which is affecting access to community nurses and hip operations, a new report says. The King’s Fund said people at the end of their life are suffering due to nursing shortages, while other patients are denied access to operations for non-clinical reasons. The think tank said there is “clear evidence that access to and quality of patient care has suffered”. The British Medical Association (BMA) said patients are “suffering the consequences of a deliberately underfunded NHS at breaking point”. The study follows an 
ITV News investigation, which revealed that more than two thirds of doctors have been left with no choice but to ration care as the NHS cash crisis intensifies.

Telegraph
Doctors could be forced to work in the UK for at least five years after completing their training, under plans by Jeremy Hunt to expand the supply of home-grown doctors. The Health Secretary will today unveil plans for the largest ever expansion in the NHS medical workforce, training an extra 1,500 doctors a year. The scheme means the number of junior doctors will expand by one quarter, in an effort to ensure Britain is less reliant on overseas doctors, in the years after Brexit. Today Mr Hunt said the plans were part of efforts to create “the safest healthcare system in the world” while ensuring value for money. It costs the taxpayer £230,000 to train a doctor, over and above fees paid by individuals. New plans today sets out proposals for a “return of service” programme – similar to that used by the armed forces.

Morning Star
PATIENTS are dying in pain due to rationing of treatment in the NHS, according to a report published today. People at the end of life are being left for hours without pain relief due to nursing shortages, says NHS research organisation the King’s Fund. Others face long delays for operations, including hip replacements, and more are affected by cuts in community nursing. The study looked at four areas hit by rationing: sexual health, district nursing, planned hip operations and neonatal care. It found services under “significant financial pressure,” with funding static or falling despite rising demand. Report author Ruth Robertson said: “Longer waiting times for hospital treatment and restrictions to operations are just one small part of the picture. “Our research shows that services like district nursing and sexual health, where we found evidence that access and quality are deteriorating for some patients, have been hardest hit by the financial pressures facing the NHS, but this is often going unseen.”

Mail
Dying patients are being left in pain for up to eight hours because the NHS has axed nurses to do home visits, a report reveals. There are now just 4,358 district nurses in England – who care for terminally ill and housebound elderly – down from 12,620 in 2003. Patients in the last two or three days of their lives are being left ‘frightened’, ‘distressed’ and in ‘discomfort’ because of long delays for visits. A major review by the Kings Fund concludes that there is now ‘clear evidence’ that the rationing of NHS funds is having a significant effect on patient care across the board. This includes patients dependent on district nurses, those awaiting hip and knee replacements and patients needing health services.

Unions

Express
TOWN halls have handed £14 million of taxpayers’ cash to trade unions over the last three years, a report revealed last night. Research by the TaxPayers’ Alliance estimated the total cost of so-called “facility time”, time off taken by employees to carry out union duties, at councils across England.  A total of 371 local authority employees carried out union duties for at least 50 per cent of their working time, the research fond. And the pressure group estimated that the expenditure was enough to fix 275,195 potholes in local roads.  Alex Wild, the research director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Trade unions are voluntary bodies of members and so should only receive the support of those members, not taxpayers. “A huge amount continues to fund union duties, often without the express knowledge or consent of taxpayers, which simply isn’t right.”

Royal yacht

Independent
Boris Johnson has backed a campaign for a new £100 million royal yacht, saying the move would attract “overwhelmingly support”. In a debate on the Budget last night the Foreign Secretary said the new yacht, to replace the Britannia which was decommissioned 20 years ago, would be considered by the government but it would have to be funded by private donations. He said: “It is my view that it would indeed add greatly to the soft power of this country, a soft power which is already very considerable. “The new Britannia should not be a call on the taxpayer, if it can be done privately I am sure it would attract overwhelming support.” This is the first time a government minister has expressed support for a boat following a campaign by the 
Daily Telegraph. Mr Johnson had previously told a committee of MPs that “regretfully” a new royal yacht was “not a government priority” last October. 

Mail
Boris Johnson yesterday signalled he backs building a new royal yacht to boost Britain’s international influence after Brexit. The Foreign Secretary insisted a new Royal Yacht Britannia would ‘add greatly’ to the UK’s ‘soft power’. It was the first time the plan has been openly backed by a minister in the House of Commons. However, Mr Johnson admitted a new yacht was unlikely to get taxpayer funding. No 10 last night appeared lukewarm on official backing for the project. Britannia was decommissioned in 1997 under Tony Blair’s Labour government.

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