An MP’s assistant has unwittingly leaked a memo apparently containing Brexit Secretary David Davis’s personal views about negotiations surrounding Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. The memo was captured on camera by notoriously eagle-eyed Downing Street photographers, and contained potentially embarrassing opinions of MPs about EU nations’ various stances on Brexit talks. Comments photographed from the document include: “The French are likely to be most difficult” – a reference to France’s resistance to granting British banks access to Europe’s single market post-Brexit; “Looking at Canadian deal and add to it” – a hint at Mr Davis’s view that in the absence of single market access, Britain should be looking at a Canadian deal with “add-on” deals for services and not just goods; “What’s the model? Have cake an eat it”– a controversial reference to perhaps leaving the EU and maintaining the free trade benefits that come with membership.
The latest Downing Street blunder involving a secret document being photographed outside Number 10 appears to reveal Tory tactics on Brexit. And, embarrassingly for Theresa May and Brexit minister David Davis, the handwritten notes on the document clearly say: “What’s the model? Have your cake and eat it.” The latest victim caught carrying an unguarded document in Downing Street is thought to be Julia Dockerill, who works for Conservative Party vice-chairman (international) Mark Field.
BRITAIN’S exit plan from the EU is to “have our cake and eat it”, according to a secret strategy paper. The handwritten note, believed to have been written by Julia Dockerill, Mark Field’s chief of staff, after attending a Brexit meeting with MP Mark Field, said: “We think it’s unlikely we’ll be offered single market.” In a worrying remark for those who voted for Brexit on the grounds of abolishing the EU’s free movement of people, the very next line says “our position is clear: the more open the better”. A document snapped by photographers in Downing Street being carried by an aide to Tory vice chairman Mark Field has shown that the government is “loath” to accept the transitional exit plan being promoted by Bank of England governor Mark Carney. In another blow to Remoaners the A4 page of notes also reveals that ministers think it is “unlikely” for Britain to be allowed to stay in the Single Market when it leaves the EU. Remaining in the single market would mean accepting free movement from the EU, being under control of the European Court of Justice and having to pay into Brussels ballooning budget.
A British think-tank said on Monday it planned to take legal action over whether the government can take Britain out of the single market as part of its exit from the European Union, in the latest legal attempt to challenge the Brexit process. The pro-single market group British Influence said it believed the government could be breaking the law if it did not get a clear legal opinion as to whether Britain’s membership of the EEA automatically ended along with its membership of the EU. Membership of the EEA, which includes the EU countries as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, provides access to the single market and its free movement of goods, capital, services and people.
The British government could face a legal challenge over whether leaving the European Union automatically would trigger a departure from the single market, the BBC reported Monday. The pro-EU think tank British Influence will tell Brexit Secretary David Davis that it will seek a judicial review to give parliament a vote on the country’s membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), taking the decision out of the government’s hands, according to the report. All EU member states are in the EEA, which allows the tariff-free movement of goods, services, capital and labour. The government believes that leaving the EU automatically means leaving the EEA, but British Influence argues that it must first invoke Article 127 of the EEA agreement, which requires the approval of MPs.
The question of whether leaving the European Union means automatic withdrawal from the single market could be the subject of a legal challenge. The pro-EU think tank British Influence is writing to Brexit Secretary David Davis to seek clarification on the Government’s position on the UK’s status in the wider European Economic Area (EEA) when it severs ties with Brussels. The group has said a legal challenge is likely, as it believes leaving the EU does not mean quitting the EEA, which extends the single market’s tariff-free trade in goods to countries like Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
The British government is facing a new legal challenge over whether it should seek to retain membership of the single market during the Brexit process. Lawyers will argue that June’s referendum asked the public a single question over whether the UK should leave the EU, and did not delve into the more complex issue of economic access. The group British Influence will use a judicial review to suggest the government could be acting unlawfully if it uses Brexit to also leave the wider European Economic Area – through which non-EU countries such as Norway are inside the single market. It is the second legal challenge faced by ministers over the process of leaving the EU. The government’s appeal to the recent high court ruling that only parliament has the power to formally trigger Brexit will be heard next week.
THE European Union wants to “enslave” Italians and seize control from the country’s government, the leader of a far right opposition group has blasted. Matteo Salvini, the head of the Lega Nord nationalist group, is desperate to free the Italian people from the shackles of Brussels and even met with the niece France’s National Front boss Marion Le Pen in a show of anti-EU solidarity. Mr Salvini explained to the French firebrand why he believes Italy will vote ‘No’ in the government’s upcoming constitutional reform referendum because Italians have had enough of taking orders from the EU’s faceless elite. The constitutional reform would hand more powers over to Brussels, something Mr Salvini finds unacceptable. He said: “I do not want a Constitution where everything is decided by Rome or, even worse, Brussels. We say ‘No’ to a Constitution which leaves Italians as slaves of Europe.
ITALY’S oldest bank faces crippling legal claims of £7 billion (€8bn) as bankruptcy looms – and the future of the European Union may depend on its survival. Banca Monte dei Paschi de Siena is facing potential legal costs for more than £7 billion having already been rescued twice by the financially crippled Italian government. And unless Monte dei Paschi de Siena is propped up then it could risk plunging Italy into chaos, unsettling the entire Brussels bloc – despite the EU banning countries from bailing out failing banks. The nation has a referendum on December 4 on whether or not to adopt constitutional reform and, if the popular vote is “no”, prime minister Matteo Renzi has said he will resign. This would spark a period of uncertainty both politically and financially and could put off potential investors if they feel the situation is too risky.
THE Italian referendum will see the euro currency shelved, current Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pushed out, and be the final nail in the coffin for the EU, the man potentially about to seize power in Italy has claimed. The Italians are having a referendum on constitutional reform on December 4 and the current Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, has vowed to resign if the people reject his proposals – and all the polls suggest he should be thinking about packing up his belongings. If Mr Renzi’s Democratic Party loses the public vote and he resigns, it will open the door for right wing nationalists to become the dominant coalition power base in parliament, and the anti-immigration figureheads have vowed to “push” their leader if he does not jump. This is hugely significant because in Italy it is forbidden to have a referendum on changing the terms of international treaties, such as the EU’s freedom of movement, or the single currency, so the decision on those issues entirely belongs to the government. The only condition needed for Italy to reject the Euro and adopt a more nationalist approach is to have a majority right wing coalition in power, something that is now more likely than ever with the emergence of Matteo Salvini’s Northern League and the Five Star Movement, founded by former comedian Beppe Grillo.
Germany’s justice minister has joined efforts to prepare the ground for significant control of news distribution online, following moves by Chancellor Angela Merkel, calling out social media for “fake news”. The socialist politician, sitting as justice minister thanks to a grand coalition that sees the centre-right Christian Democrats sharing power with the left, Heiko Maas made the comments ahead of next year’s Bundestag elections. Mr. Maas said Germany “must reckon” with the proliferation of what he called fake news, and that if unchecked it would influence the election, reports Deutsche Welle. Again highlighting the German government’s intention to legislate to combat what they see as unwelcome freedom on the internet, Mr. Maas said: “Unfortunately, this is a dark side of the internet, a side we have to deal with more intensively”. He said Germany would call on social media networks like Facebook to reveal how their businesses work. Facebook has already proven extremely willing to cede to German government demands, deleting 100,000 “hate posts” a month at the behest of the justice minister and others. Mr. Maas has already said that figure is too low.
A former president of the European Union’s (EU) executive arm has said Germany and its interests have come to dominate the bloc at the expense of other nations. “The resolutions of the Greek crisis was not a Brussels-Athens decision, it was a Berlin-Athens decision”, Romano Prodi, who led the European Commission between 1999 and 2004, told Politico. The left-wing politician and former Italian president, who oversaw the EU nearly doubling in size, claimed the bloc had changed from a “union of minorities” to a “coalition of states”. He said: “During my time at the Berlaymont (the headquarters of the European Commission), one just had to turn on a news channel of a European country and it was all about the Commission. Today, it’s all about the Council.”
ANGELA MERKEL today announced plans to deport 100,000 migrants who arrived in Germany last year as she continues to backtrack on her controversial open door asylum policy. The beleaguered Chancellor said authorities would significantly step up the rate of forced returns as she battles to arrest an alarming slump in her popularity which has fuelled a surge in support for the far-right. Mrs Merkel, whose decision to roll out the red carpet to migrants from across Africa and the Middle East spectacularly backfired, has taken an increasingly tough tone on immigration in recent months. And in her toughest rhetoric yet the German leader told MPs from her party this week: ”The most important thing in the coming months is repatriation, repatriation and once more, repatriation.”
A private meeting of Labour MPs has voted overwhelmingly to oppose an SNP motion to investigate Tony Blair for allegedly misleading parliament, with MPs calling for the leadership to impose a three-line whip against the motion on Wednesday. SNP MPs led by Alex Salmond will put down a motion at their opposition day debate, backed by MPs from six other parties, calling for a parliamentary committee to investigate the difference between Blair’s public assurances to the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war and private comments he made to then US president George W Bush. Labour, Conservative and Plaid Cymru MPs and Green MP Caroline Lucas have said they will support the motion, Salmond told the Observer. The committee could eventually recommend sanctions against the former prime minister, Salmond said, including stripping him of his privy council membership.
Remain campaigners, including Nick Clegg, have said Tony Blair should be allowed a voice in the Brexit debate and revealed they are willing to work with the former Prime Minister in the rally against a hard Brexit. Speaking at a cross-party Open Britain event to urge the Government to maintain access to the single market after Brexit, the former deputy Prime Minister appeared alongside Labour MP Chuka Umunna and the Conservative former business minister Anna Soubry. His comments came after the former Labour Prime Minister between 1997 and 2007 revealed that he would launch a new organisation aimed at creating a new space for political debate “where western democracies go and where progressive forces particularly find their place”.
Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is coming under mounting pressure from Tory MPs to bring forward help for the NHS and social care services, amid dire warnings that council budget cuts are causing unsustainable problems. A string of Conservatives have begun to express dismay that Hammond did not address the issue in his autumn statement. Their voices add to the senior doctors, council leaders from all parties, two Tory former health secretaries and the Labour frontbench, who are warning that increasingly hospitals are unable to discharge elderly patients as struggling social care services are not able to make appropriate arrangements. Among those raising concerns about a crisis are Dr Andrew Murrison, a Tory former minister, who said on Monday that Hammond’s decision to miss out mention of healthcare in the autumn statement was “strange”.
Staff shortages in the NHS now outweigh fears over funding, according to a new survey of trust leaders. The study, claimed to be the largest ever of chairs and chief executives in England, has revealed growing concern over a “workforce gap”. Of the 238 NHS trusts contacted over half responded to the survey. The figures show that only one in four trust leaders (27%) are confident they currently have the right staff numbers and skill mix to deliver high quality healthcare. In addition to that just one in five (22%) are confident about having the right staffing levels in six months’ time.
Ministers and NHS bosses are being urged to stop asking the health service to “deliver the impossible” of higher standards of care when it is being denied the money it needs to do its job properly. The plea from the organisation that represents NHS trusts in England was accompanied by a blunt warning that care for patients is already deteriorating and that even a flu outbreak could “destabilise” some hospitals this winter. NHS Providers, whose member trusts receive £65bn of the NHS’s £100bn annual budget, says the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and the NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, are making unrealistic demands of the service. “The government has said there will be no more money. The government and our system leaders have said that the NHS still has to deliver everything that is currently being asked for,” Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, will say on Tuesday.
THOUSANDS of Post Office staff are to stage a fresh strike in a dispute over pensions. Unite said the 24-hour walkout on December 3 will disrupt overseas Christmas mail and parcels. Around 720 managers will take action, the third 24-hour strike in a long-running pensions’ dispute. The managers will be joining a strike by members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), which is in dispute over jobs and the franchising of Crown Post Offices as well as the closure of a final salary pension scheme. In October members of the CWU went on strike over job losses, pension concerns and the future of the Post Office. CWU general secretary Dave Ward said at the time: “The Post Office is now at crisis point – it needs a new strategy as a matter of urgency. “No-one is thinking of the future. This isn’t good for workers, it isn’t good for customers and it isn’t good for the future of the business. “The CWU will not simply stand by and see another British industry destroyed.” Mark Davies, communications and corporate affairs director at the Post Office, said: “We are extremely sorry that the unions are attempting to disrupt services for people sending parcels and cards to loved ones in the run-up to Christmas.
THOUSANDS of Southern and Tube passengers face travel misery as the latest round of strikes is set to bring services to a standstill next week. Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union have announced further industrial action which could see up to 400 train drivers causing travel chaos. The next 24-hour strike call are declared over December 6 and 7 by Southern Railway as well as the Piccadilly and Hammersmith & City lines in separate and unrelated disputes. RMT reports the Piccadilly and Hammersmith & City lines will walk out from 9.30pm amid claims of a breakdown in industrial relations, breaches of procedures and bullying and harassment of staff. The Piccadilly line, one of the busiest on the London underground network serving Heathrow, is expected to be severely disrupted.
BRITAIN’S worst performing rail firm received a huge blow to its efforts to roll out driver-only trains yesterday, when drivers finally announced nine days of strike action. Govia Thameslink Railway’s (GTR’s) Southern division has been locked in a bitter dispute with conductors over the deskilling of their roles through the transfer of door control duties to drivers. The network has been hit by commuter chaos as a result of a number of strikes by the RMT union, as well as staff shortages and other mishaps. Drivers’ union Aslef tried to take its own industrial action back in June, saying members were not willing to take on extra duties without consultation. But a series of injunctions and legal threats by GTR thwarted the strike plans.