Speculation is growing that the Prime Minister will start the Brexit process in a few days’ time. The Telegraph reports:
Theresa May could formally trigger Brexit as early as Tuesday after European leaders revealed that they are already making preparations for an announcement.
Ministers are increasingly confident that Mrs May’s Article 50 bill could clear both the Commons and the Lords on Monday.
The swift passage of the legislation would clear the way for Mrs May to trigger Brexit negotiations in the Commons on Tuesday.
Cabinet ministers are privately pressing Mrs May to “get on with Brexit” and trigger Article 50 “as soon as possible”, The Telegraph understands.
The announcement would help Mrs May move the debate away from Philip Hammond’s Budget. Downing Street has said that Article 50 will be triggered by the end of the month but refused to commit to a date.
It came as Donald Tusk, the head of the European Council, said that EU leaders are prepared to respond within 48 hours of Mrs May triggering Brexit.
The Independent has a similar story.
Theresa May could begin the formal process for leaving the European Union by triggering Article 50 as early as Tuesday, officials in the UK and Brussels have said.
The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill is set to be debated by MPs on Monday, when they will decide whether to accept two amendments added by the House of Lords.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister will brief MPs in the Commons about this week’s EU summit, and it is understood she may use the occasion to formally trigger the leaving process.
One of the amendments voted through by the House of Lords would force the Government to give MPs a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal before the country withdrew from the bloc.
The other change asks the Government to guarantee the rights of EU citizens when it leaves.
Ms May has committed the Government to triggering Article 50 by the end of March, which leaves fewer than three weeks in which to pull the trigger.
But unnamed Westminster sources have reportedly said that the action could come as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday next week.
As does the Guardian.
Theresa May could trigger article 50, the formal process for leaving the European Union, as early as Tuesday if the Brexit bill passes late on Monday, government sources say.
The legislation, which passed through the House of Commons unamended, is due to be debated by MPs on Monday. They will have to decide whether to accept a pair of amendments added by peers – on the rights of European Union citizens and granting parliament a meaningful vote at the end of the process.
Rebel Conservative MPs have urged the Brexit secretary, David Davis, to give firm promises on both issues when he addresses the Commons.
Anna Soubry, who has been one of the most outspoken rebels, said she was keen to be reassured that MPs would be given a vote in the event that the government is unable to secure a deal in the two-year negotiating period.
“It’s completely unacceptable that in the event of no deal, the people of this country, or their elected representatives, their MPs, would have no say on what happens next,” she said.
The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, and Labour’s leader in the Lords, Baroness Smith, wrote to the prime minister on Friday asking her to act on both issues.
The Times reports on behind-the-scenes negotiations with backbenchers.
Ministers are in private negotiations with senior Conservative backbenchers to smooth the way for Article 50 to be triggered as soon as Tuesday.
Pro-European MPs have told whips that they want David Davis, the Brexit secretary, to pledge that parliament will have a “meaningful” vote on any deal with the European Union when he opens the Article 50 debate on Monday.
They also want him to reiterate the government’s intention to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK if no deal is reached.
They have made clear that if concessions are made on these two points they will vote against the amendments to the bill that have been passed by the Lords.
And Labour MPs have urged the Prime Minister to support the House of Lords’ amendments, says Westmonster.
In the latest example of disgraceful manoeuvring on Brexit from the Labour Party, the party have sent a letter to the Prime Minister supporting amendments from the House of Lords including a veto on Brexit.
The letter from Labour’s Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer and Baroness Smith, their Leader in the House of Lords, calls on the government to accept the meddling from the unelected Lords.
That would include the PM guaranteeing rights of EU nationals in the UK with no assurances for Brits abroad, and worryingly the right for Parliament to veto Brexit at the end of the EU negotiations.
Today’s Labour Party has never been more out of touch with the country than they are today. Whilst Brits unite behind Brexit, the official Labour line is now to potentially block Brexit if the politicians don’t like the outcome. That would amount to nothing less than a betrayal.
The Mail reports that the Prime Minister has not told EU leaders of her plans.
A tight-lipped Theresa May has refused to tell European Union leaders when she plans to kickstart Brexit – as speculation grows she could do so on Tuesday.
The Prime Minister is expected to be handed the power to trigger Article 50 by Parliament as soon as Monday.
Whitehall is on full alert to begin divorce talks within days but Mrs May could wait until the final week of March to begin the process.
At a summit in Brussels on Thursday night, EU leaders pushed her to share her plans. The Prime Minister said they ‘made clear to me that they want to get on with negotiations and so do I’.
Brussels officials believe the PM could choose to wait until after the EU has celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome on March 25.
And Sky News claims Europeans will start negotiations almost immediately.
European leaders are preparing for formal Brexit negotiations to begin within days should Theresa May trigger Article 50 next week.
EU leaders, meeting in Brussels, were told to prepare for the possibility that Britain could trigger talks as early as next Tuesday, with a formal gathering on 6 April pencilled in to respond to Britain’s formal letter of notification.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny confirmed to reporters that the EU 27 had provisionally agreed a meeting in early April to agree a framework for exit talks.
“The next meeting is to be on the 6th of April, provided that the [British] Prime Minister [Theresa May] moves Article 50, I think by the 15th of March,” he said.
“There will be a response immediately from the European Council, and there will be guidelines issued within 48 hours. And the European Council meeting to adopt those guidelines will be on 6 April.”
Westmonster points out that last night’s documentary ignored UKIP.
The BBC aired a documentary last night about Brexit focusing on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead but they forgot to include Nigel Farage or UKIP.
In fact, the hour-long special, hosted by Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg failed to mention UKIP at all, not even as a passing reference.
There were, however, long interviews with Nicola Sturgeon to discuss her favourite topic, independence and a puff piece with Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron where he tries to educate locals in Doncaster on why they were wrong to vote leave and should vote again in another referendum just to be sure.
UKIP’s media spokesman, Patrick O’Flynn tweed: “How could you make a special prog on Brexit without talking to a single UKIP voice? Or did I blink and miss it?”
Laura K has so far not responded to his query.
Are the police being fair when there is the possibility that an election could be rigged? The Mail reports on a London election.
Scotland Yard was yesterday under pressure to explain why it has let ‘off the hook’ a mayor who was booted out of office for stealing an election.
No criminal charges were ever brought against Lutfur Rahman despite an election court finding him guilty of rigging the ballot to become mayor of Tower Hamlets in London.
Yesterday the Metropolitan Police was accused of ‘major failings’ by the chairman of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee.
Steve O’Connell said that there was widespread concern that despite the findings against Rahman, the Met had not brought charges.
He said: ‘During our investigation, we, as a committee, have been shocked to uncover major failings by the Metropolitan Police in its ability to investigate allegations of electoral fraud and malpractice.
‘Missed files of evidence; missed opportunities to gather witness statements; witnesses who were prepared to give evidence in the Election Court but were unwilling to do so in criminal proceedings – this is not what we expect from a supposedly world-leading police force.’
The Mirror also covers the story.
The Metropolitan Police have been criticised for “major failings” in their investigation of electoral fraud in Tower Hamlets during the London Mayoral elections in 2014, a London Assembly committee said today.
Former Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman was forced to step down after an Election Court found him guilty of a litany of corrupt and illegal practices, but he has faced no criminal prosecution.
Steve O’Connell, chairman of the Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee, said that there was “widespread concern” that despite the findings against Mr Rahman, the Metropolitan Police had not brought charges.
He said: “During our investigation, we, as a committee, have been shocked to uncover major failings by the Metropolitan Police in its ability to investigate allegations of electoral fraud and malpractice.
And there have been accusations against the Tories during the 2015 General Election says the Independent.
Two Conservative activists have accused the party of “telling lies” over allegations it broke election laws in a number of key seats in the lead-up the 2015 General Election.
Gregg and Louise Kinsell, who campaigned for the party in several marginal constituencies, said Tory officials’ claims they had not acted illegally were untrue.
An investigation by Channel 4 has found the Conservatives transported busloads of volunteers to marginal seats to help with campaigning, but that these expenses, including travel and accommodation costs, were not registered on local spending reports.
Conservative officials have consistently denied the activists taking part in the ‘Battlebus2015’ campaign were helping local candidates, instead claiming they were only helping to disseminate national messages. The operation would therefore be classed as a national expense rather than a local one.
Speaking last year, then Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Lots of political parties have these bus tours – you know buses that go round different constituencies and this is a national expense.”
However, Mr and Ms Kinsell said they took part in the Battebus tours and had campaigned for local candidates in every area they visited.
Across the Channel, the EU is still in crisis, reports the Express.
A KEY European summit on how the bloc will proceed after Brexit descended into farce this evening as Poland vowed to veto the idea of a “two-speed” Europe backed by the most powerful member states.
What was meant to be a closely choreographed display of unity instead took on an increasingly chaotic air as Warsaw filled what has traditionally been Britain’s role as the black sheep of the European family.
In a bombshell ultimatum the country’s prime minister said she would block any attempts to move the project forward by allowing some member states to integrate at a faster pace than others.
Things then reportedly took an ugly turn at dinner as the move led to a blazing row erupting between Poland and France which has threatened to sour the EU’s upcoming birthday celebrations.
And Guy Verhofstadt has called our decision to leave the EU a tragedy, says the Express.
BREXIT negotiator Guy Verhofstadt has been blasted after describing Britain’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) as a “tragedy” and vowed to help Britons keep Brussels benefits.
The former prime minister of Belgium was criticised after he claimed he has received thousands of letters from UK citizens who do not want to turn their back on “European civilisation”.
Broadcaster and journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer tweeted: “The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt is quite right: Brexit IS a ‘tragedy’. For the EU. #wepaymostofthebills.”
Ukip’s Nigel Farage added: “Guy Verhofstadt using European nationalism to try and destroy the nation state. Divisive and wrong.”
The president of the European Commission has said we could be persuaded to return, says the Independent.
Brussels’ most senior official has said he hopes Britain can be persuaded to rejoin the European Union after Brexit.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said: “I don’t like Brexit because I would like to be in the same boat as the British.
“The day will come when the British will re-enter the boat, I hope.”
The comments came at a press conference in Brussels after a summit of EU leaders, the last before Theresa May is expected to trigger Britain’s exit.
Mr Juncker added: “Brexit is not the end of the European Union, nor the end of all our developments, nor the end of our continental ambitions.”
He insisted the prospect of the UK leaving the EU was strengthening the resolve of other member states to carry on their project and said: “The Brexit issue is encouraging the others to continue, unfortunately without the British.”
BBC News also carries his words.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he hopes that the UK will rejoin the European Union at some point in future.
Mr Juncker, the most senior official in Brussels, said he did not like Brexit because he wanted “to be in the same boat as the British”.
“The day will come when the British will re-enter the boat, I hope,” he said following an EU summit.
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: “The ship will have sunk by then.”
The UK is expected to trigger the formal Brexit process this month, beginning a two-year negotiation process of withdrawal.
And the Mirror reports Juncker saying he hopes we will rejoin this sinking ship.
The European Commission president said he wants to be in the “same boat” as the British.
Jean-Claude Juncker has suggested he hopes Britain will rejoin the European Union after Brexit .
The European Commission president said he wanted to be in the “same boat” as the British and hoped they would “re-enter” the vessel.
At a press conference in Brussels after a meeting of the 27 other EU leaders, Mr Juncker said: “I don’t like Brexit because I would like to be in the same boat as the British.
“The day will come when the British will re-enter the boat, I hope.
“But Brexit is not the end of the European Union, nor the end of all our developments, nor the end of our continental ambitions.”
The Express claims Brexit-lite is being discussed in the EU.
SENIOR Eurocrats today launched a desperate last-ditch attempt to try to halt Britain’s EU exit by raising the possibility of a watered-down membership deal.
Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the Brussels negotiating team on Brexit, suggested that British citizens could be allowed to apply to keep some EU membership on an individual basis after the country leaves the bloc.
And European Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker signalled that looser ties to Brussels could be on offer in order to keep the UK on board the European project.
He said: “The day will come when the British will re-enter the boat, I hope.”
But the double hint of some form of associate membership of the EU for Britain was dismissed by Brexit campaigners as a cynical bid to “muddy the waters” ahead of the looming departure negotiations.
The Mail reports on the possibility of Marine Le Pen winning the French presidency.
Far-right French presidential election candidate Marine Le Pen poses the biggest threat to European stability, Credit Suisse has said.
Switzerland’s second largest bank warned of the implications of a win for the National Front, in a guide published to help investors navigate the upcoming ‘defining’ months facing the continent.
Analysing possible outcomes in the Dutch, French and German elections as well as Britain’s triggering of Article 50 to kick-start Brexit and Greece’s debt negotiations, Credit Suisse strategists offered three scenarios for Europe’s immediate future.
The ‘negative’ option has Greece struggle for more debt funding and anti-immigration nationalist Le Pen president.
The Independent reports on the ‘games’ which could be a part of the Brexit negotiations.
EU citizens in Britain are the victims of “political games” and their rights must be the first item in the exit talks, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator has said.
Guy Verhofstadt called for the fate of those three million EU nationals, and of British ex-pats, to be settled before negotiations on the rumoured £50bn “divorce bill” – long thought to be the key early dispute.
Mr Verhofstadt said the EU parliament would agree a resolution soon after the Article 50 exit clause is triggered in the next few weeks, which it would expect to guide those talks.
Otherwise the parliament could exercise its right to vote down any eventual deal agreed between the UK and the European Commission. “We vote no – that is possible,” he told BBC Radio 4.
The Guardian reports on the prospect of renegotiating trade deals with the old Commonwealth.
Britain would harmonise regulations with its former colonies rather than the European Union under new proposals for trade integration that critics have dubbed Empire 2.0.
At a meeting in London given fresh impetus by Brexit, Commonwealth trade ministers agreed to deepen economic ties on Friday by seeking some of the same standardisation that once frustrated eurosceptics in Brussels.
“Because we share common law, common language, common institutions and common parliamentary structures, that has given us a de facto advantage,” said Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland at the end of the two-day summit.
“That … advantage is something which we as a Commonwealth are absolutely determined to exploit and to grow, and at this meeting today we were able to have a comprehensive opportunity to consider how in practice we do that.”
In other news, the Mail reports that more joint surgery could be performed.
NHS bosses have ordered health boards to stop rationing hip and knee operations.
The intervention by NHS England follows concerns that patients in parts of the country are being denied joint replacements unless they were in so much pain they could not sleep.
The rationing measures have now been denounced by officials as relying on ‘arbitrary’ cut-offs, and will not even save money.
An email from NHS England to health boards said officials were aware that ‘a number of CCGs [clinical commissioning groups] in England are rationing large joint replacements using arbitrary cut-offs’.
The email, seen by the Health Service Journal, was sent by a regional NHS director at the end of last month.
The Telegraph, sometimes known as the ‘Torygraph’ for it’s pro-Conservative stance, reports on a post-budget poll.
The Conservatives are no longer seen as a party of low taxation following Philip Hammond’s tax raid on the self-employed, a new poll for The Telegraph shows.
Just one in four voters now regards the Tories as a low-tax party, while almost half of those polled say they trust the Conservatives less as a result of Mr Hammond’s Budget. More than half of voters – 55 per cent – say Theresa May should have honoured the party’s manifesto pledge not to raise taxes.
Figures on voting intentions are equally worrying for the Prime Minister, with almost half of those questioned saying they are less likely to vote Tory because of the Budget, including one in seven Conservative voters.
The Prime Minister and her Chancellor have faced a rebellion from their own MPs following the decision to increase National Insurance Contributions for self-employed people.
It’s the Times that has the space story today. Scientists think that newly-discovered space energy is not natural.
Giant flashes of energy in deep space could be caused by a gigantic power plant that harnesses light energy from stars to send aliens on intergalactic odysseys, astrophysicists have suggested.
Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics say that fast radio bursts (FRBs) — explosive signals originating several billion light years from Earth — could be the work of “extragalactic civilisations” aboard vast futuristic arks.
“We haven’t identified a possible natural source with any confidence. An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking,” Professor Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard University’s department of astronomy, said. “Science isn’t a matter of belief, it’s a matter of evidence. My approach is to put all possibilities on the table and let the data decide.”