BRITAIN and the European Union have agreed to push the next round of Brexit talks back a week as Theresa May prepares to make a new intervention being billed as a potential game-changer. It is understood the UK prime minister will deliver a crucial new speech on or around September 21 in an attempt to break the deadlock that his gripped the early stages of the negotiations. The contents of the address are being kept a fiercely guarded secret, but it appears the EU may have been tipped off to expect a big development given recent comments by its most senior officials. Earlier this month EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier described the upcoming speech as “very important” and indicated that he was waiting to hear what she had to say that could spark new progress.
The fourth round of Brexit talks has been delayed by a week to 25 September, the Government has confirmed. A spokesperson said “both sides” had agreed to push back the date to give negotiators “flexibility” to make progress at the current stage. It follows reports that the date was changed to accommodate a major speech on the subject by Theresa May, hinted at for 21 September. European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt predicted the postponement, speculating Mrs May was planning on making an “important intervention”. Downing Street declined to comment on the claims but Whitehall sources insisted the initial date set for the talks, 18 September, had only been pencilled in and was subject to agreement.
The next round of the Brexit talks will be delayed by one week in an attempt to end the stalemate jeopardising an agreement, The Independent has learned. The negotiations will not resume until about 25 September. British and EU officials had been due to meet in Brussels next Monday. The delay follows suggestions that Theresa May is planning a major public speech towards the end of next week that will finally flesh out her exit strategy. Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, first revealed the Prime Minister was planning an “important intervention” that might require the talks to be rescheduled. It is thought Ms May is preparing to try to reassure business and Brussels by setting out that any transitional agreement must be “as close as possible” to current relations with the EU. Downing Street has been considering several European venues for the speech and is said to have pencilled in September 22 as a possible date.
The next round of Brexit talks has been delayed by a week as Britain struggles to break its bitter deadlock with Brussels. Officials were hoping Tory minister David Davis would travel to the Belgian capital for talks on September 18. They even hoped talks would roll on and on from that date until a resolution was reached on key issues. But instead the start date has been put back to September 25. A spokeswoman for the Brexit Department admitted “more time for consultation” was needed to improve the odds of progress.
TWO Labour MPs who voted for the government’s Brexit Bill told the Star yesterday that they stuck to their principles in doing so because the European Union has always been undemocratic. A total of seven MPs defied the Labour whip and voted for the Bill to receive a second reading. They were Ronnie Campbell, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, John Mann, Dennis Skinner and Graham Stringer. Mr Skinner told the Star that when he entered Parliament in 1970 he had voted against Britain joining what was then known as the Common Market — the former European Economic Community (EEC) — under Edward Heath’s Tory government.
The shrinking group of hardcore Conservative Remoaners in the House of Commons have put together an amendment that would require MPs to sign off on any Brexit deal. Conservative MPs Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry, Ken Clarke, Nicky Morgan and others are backing the attempt for a last ditch Brexit block, as they continue to refuse to respect the will of the people. Their amendment reads: “…subject to the prior enactment of a statute by Parliament approving the final terms of withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.” The member’s explanatory statement reads: “To require the final deal with the EU to be approved by statute passed by Parliament.”
EUROPEAN Union member states need to join the single currency to remain at the “core” of the European project after Brexit, according to Jean-Claude Juncker’s right-hand man. Martin Selmayr, the chief of staff to the European Commission president, told a meeting of EU deputy-ambassadors at a private dinner in Brussels last week that the eurozone is set to take on a more important status within the EU after Britain leaves the bloc. At the moment there are nine EU members, including the UK, who do not use the euro and the plans to strong-arm these countries into adopting the single currency have not gone down well, according to reports. Representatives from the Czech Republic and Hungary challenged Mr Selmayr’s plans at last week’s dinner, arguing that Brussels should consider a more inclusive approach rather than putting the eurozone at the core of the project.
Jean-Claude Juncker will today use a flagship speech to snub Britain and insist that, despite Brexit, the European Union will move towards greater integration. The Telegraph can reveal that Mr Juncker’s top aide Martin Selmayr told a behind-closed door meeting of EU diplomats that European Union countries that wish to remain at the “core” of the European project after Brexit will have to join the euro. The president of the European Commission is expected to barely mention Brexit in his State of the Union address in the European Parliament in Strasbourg with the focus overwhelmingly on the future of the EU without Britain.
POWERFUL German MEP Manfred Weber today rubbished the UK Government’s position papers on Brexit, telling Theresa May the proposals contained in them “will not fly”. The influential euro MP, who is head of the largest grouping in the EU Parliament, accused Britain of wanting to have its cake and eat it over Single Market access. And he hinted at a lack of trust between the two sides during the divorce talks, which have stalled as British negotiators attempt to resist Brussels’ demand for a gargantuan exit fee. Mr Weber, the chairman of the powerful EPP grouping, said the UK Government needs to decide once and for all whether it wants to properly leave the EU or stay inside it. He made the remarks as EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker, who comes from the same political alliance, prepares to make his landmark State of the Union address outlining the bloc’s priorities for 2018.
German industry is preparing for a “worst case scenario” Brexit, a top car executive has told Sky News. Matthias Wissmann, head of the German Automotive Association, said contingency plans were being formed to deal with a possible failure of Brexit negotiations in the next 18 months. “We have a task force that considers what will happen in a worst case but hope politicians avoid that worst case,” he told Sky News on the sidelines of the Frankfurt Motor Show. That worst-case “hard Brexit” scenario is thought to include the imposition of tariffs, and non-tariff barriers, if the UK becomes a “third country” in EU law in March 2019. Mr Wissmann suggested that the UK government and the EU had to be “very careful not to destroy the value chain” of the European car industry, and the options were running out as Brexit negotiation time ticked down.
Police are targeting Eurostar terminals to protect children from female genital mutilation (FGM) as officers say they are ‘absolutely determined’ to obtain the first successful prosecution for the crime since it was outlawed over 30 years ago. Inspector Allen Davis, from Scotland Yard’s sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command, said it was ‘really important’ to show the practice, made illegal in 1985, is not tolerated. A police operation to protect children from practices including FGM, forced marriage, breast ironing and child abuse linked to beliefs focused on Eurostar terminal in London and Kent today. Difficulties getting people to report FGM and testify against family members is one of a ‘number of reasons’ nobody has yet been convicted, Mr Davis said at St Pancras.
Leaders of three major trade unions have raised the threat of illegal strike action if the public sector pay cap is not lifted for all workers. Unite boss Len McCluskey said he would be prepared to break the “artificial threshold” requiring industrial action to be approved by a ballot of 50 per cent of members, as public sector unions condemned the Government’s promise to offer wage increases to police and prison officers. His calls were echoed by Public and Commecial Services (PCS) union chief Mark Serwotka and Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, who said they would consider defying the rules over strike action. Trade unions have repeatedly condemned law changes requiring the 50 per cent turnout, which has been seen by some as an ideological attack on the movement.
Three of Britain’s biggest trade unions are threatening a wave of illegal strikes this winter if Theresa May refuses to lift the 1 per cent cap on pay rises for the whole public sector. Union bosses representing more than two million workers issued warnings as the prime minister abandoned the seven-year cap to boost pay for two sectors yesterday. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, refused to condemn the threats and his party would not say whether it would back illegal strikes. Mrs May awarded a pay increase of about 2 per cent to the police and 1.7 per cent for prison officers but said that the rises must be funded from existing budgets.
THERESA May ripped up the seven-year pay cap on public sector workers yesterday but still faced the threat of damaging strikes. Downing Street announced a 1.7 per cent pay rise for prison guards for 2017-2018 and a two per cent deal for police officers. And No10 confirmed The Sun’s revelations that all public sector workers are in line for more than one per cent when new pay deals for 2018-2019 are set in April. But the boost was met with derision from union leaders as official figures showed inflation leapt to 2.9 per cent in August. The Prison Officers Association said it would be lobbying its members over industrial action. Pay rises were supposed to be capped at one per cent until the end of the decade in an attempt to curb spiralling government debts.
Len McCluskey compared himself to Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela last night as his fellow union barons threatened a wave of illegal strikes. The hard-Left leader of Unite sparked outrage by suggesting that unlawful industrial action was no different to landmark campaigns for civil rights. Despite ministers scrapping the 1 per cent public sector pay cap yesterday, he repeatedly refused to rule out agitating for above-inflation rises. Mr McCluskey suggested unions had a duty to defy a legal requirement for strike action to be approved by a ballot of more than 50 per cent, saying the threshold was ‘artificial’. ‘If that means we are outside the law, then so be it,’ he said. ‘The reality is that the law is wrong and it has to be resisted. I daresay if you’d have been interviewing Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi or the suffragettes you’d be telling them that they were breaking the law.
Theresa May’s government faces months of strife over public sector pay after a decision to lift the 1% annual cap on increases was met with derision from Labour and renewed threats of strikes by trade unions. Following months of pressure over the issue, Downing Street simultaneously announced above 1% pay rises for police and prison officers in the last of the 2017-18 deals, and a wider commitment to “flexibility” for all public sector workers from next year. But Jeremy Corbyn accused the Conservatives of trying to divide and rule workers, while unions representing prison officers and police dismissed their pay rises as insufficient, with the former threatening industrial action.
Police chiefs have warned that the Government’s plan to give officers a pay rise costing £50m without providing extra finance risks rising crime and staff being laid off. Senior officers said they backed Theresa May’s move to ease pay restraint, but that the cost could not be absorbed by police force budgets already stretched to breaking point after years of austerity. It came after the Prime Minister proposed a small pay rise for police and prison staff in a move widely seen as marking the end of the blanket cap on public sector pay. But the offer was met with derision and anger from unions who highlighted how the increase falls short of the rate of inflation and so still represents a real-terms cut.
TORIES are seeking to “divide people on the cheap,” Jeremy Corbyn said yesterday as the government offered a miserly concession to prison guards and coppers. Downing Street announced yesterday that it is to “lift” the 1 per cent pay cap with police receiving a measly pay rise of 2 per cent and guards just 1.7 per cent. However, as inflation currently stands at 2.9 per cent, the concessions still amount to a real-terms pay cut for cash-strapped officers while other public-sector workers have been kept in the dark about any changes to their wages. To a rapturous reception at TUC Congress, Mr Corbyn said: “As inflation rises to nearly 3 per cent, they try to divide people on the cheap.
Labour has secured a vote on Government plans to hike university tuition fees, which if won could help force ministers to back down. The vote will cast judgement over whether Theresa May’s administration should push on with plans to increase fees beyond the existing £9,000 cap. It comes as the Government attempts to woo younger voters following an election in which most people under 50 deserted the Tories for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, which has pledged to scrap fees. The vote could also prove difficult for the Democratic Unionist Party, who are supporting the Conservatives in government having previously voted against increasing the cap on student fees in 2010. Some Conservative MPs are also uncomfortable with the level of fees, with Ms May’s most senior minister Damian Green promising a review earlier this year.
Labour is to force a parliamentary vote to scrap the government’s latest rise in university tuition fees. The move, led by the shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, will put some Conservative MPs in an uncomfortable position at a time when they have been pushing May to reduce the burden of fees on students. Under the government’s plan, the annual tuition fee cap of £9,000 is to rise by £250 a year, increasing the debt of a student on a four-year course by £1,000 overall. Jeremy Corbyn’s gains at the general election in June were partly attributed to a large vote from students after he promised to scrap tuition fees and look at ways of writing off existing fee debt.
Labour will shame Tory MPs who want to hike uni tuition fees by forcing a public vote. The party will hold a last-ditch bid to kill off a rise beyond £9,000-a-year in the House of Commons tomorrow. But a row has broken out over exactly what the vote will achieve. Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner had claimed her vote, if she wins, would automatically defeat the rise. Yet that claim was disputed by House of Commons authorities and the government, who both said it was only symbolic. They explained it was too late to reverse the rise because a 40-day limit has now expired. Hitting back, a source close to Ms Rayner insisted she had demanded a review within the 40 days yet the government “refused to allow a vote”.
Hospitals and GP surgeries will struggle to cope this winter as a severe flu outbreak heads towards Britain, the head of the NHS has warned. Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, has given the health service six weeks to empty beds in order to avoid chaos in A&E as more elderly people than usual get sick. He also told NHS leaders that he would have a “hard look” at why life expectancy growth is slowing, after The Times revealed this week that progress in Britain has stalled while people in other countries live ever longer. Theresa May has been briefed about health chiefs’ fears of a winter crisis after hospital wards ended the quieter summer months already dangerously full.
Thousands of nurses, care home staff and pharmacists are to be urged to look out for symptoms of sepsis in the latest drive to combat the deadly condition, Jeremy Hunt has announced. The Health Secretary said staff will work to a clear definition of what adult sepsis looks like so that it is identified and treated more quickly. As part of a plan to step up action against the deadly infection staff will be given more educational materials. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight an infection. Signs of sepsis in children include lethargy, feeling cold to the touch, fast or difficult breathing and a rash that does not fade. In adults the signs include fast heart rate, fast breathing, fever or chills, vomiting, slurred speech and breathlessness.
Union leaders will vote on whether to back efforts to decriminalise prostitution to offer greater protection to sex workers. Calls have been made for a ‘New Zealand-style’ approach where sex workers are offered full legal protection amid concern the current system pushes men and women into unsafe practices and leaves them vulnerable to crime. A motion will be put to the vote at the TUC Congress on Wednesday, which has been backed by both Aslef and GMB unions, calling for “full decriminalisation” and demanding the same rights for sex workers as other workers. However former deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman intervened to condemn the move, saying it would “legitimise their exploitation”. The influential Home Affairs Select Committee published a report last year calling for an end to the criminalisation of sex workers and said the Home Office should change the laws around soliciting and brothel-keeping, which would allow sex workers to share premises.
Harriet Harman has accused two major unions of “legitimising exploitation” after they backed the decriminalisation of sex work. Aslef and the GMB will on Wednesday urge the Trades Union Congress conference to decriminalise prostitution, claiming it would improve safety for the thousands of men and women who work in the sex industry. The unions want the TUC and the government to back the launch of a scheme where sex workers have full legal protection. Opponents say the move could increase sexism and violence against women, legitimise grooming and make schoolgirls grow up seeing prostitution as a “career choice”. The former deputy Labour leader tweeted her opposition to the motion and urged TUC delegates to vote it down.
More than 50 academics have called for the Scottish National party to support a ban on all under-18s taking combat roles in the armed forces after a motion was watered down by MPs. In an open letter to the Guardian, 52 specialists in military affairs, international relations and political science said the UK was in breach of international norms on recruiting 16- and 17-year-olds for military service, and was the only Nato country that allowed under-18s to serve. They asked SNP members to support a motion being put forward by the party’s youth wing for its national conference in October, calling for a full ban on under-18s receiving combat training. SNP youth activists have said members of the party’s defence team at Westminster had been resistant to the idea and obstructive when they first called for the SNP to support an outright ban on the recruitment of minors.