Brexit

The Telegraph examines whether the Prime Minister’s deal with the EU is worth the paper it’s written on.

A row has broken out between Downing Street and senior Eurosceptics over claims Theresa May’s aides told Boris Johnson and Michael Gove that the key concession used to seal Friday’s deal with Europe  was “meaningless” and “not binding”.
A senior Eurosceptic with knowledge of the discussions involving Cabinet ministers, including Mr Johnson and Mr Gove, told The Telegraph that No 10 had said a commitment to “full alignment” between the UK and the EU “doesn’t mean anything in EU law”.
A separate source confirmed that a specific Cabinet minister had been told by No 10 aides that the provision was “meaningless” and was simply included to secure Ireland’s approval for the document.
The claims are likely to infuriate the Irish government and threaten to unravel the apparent Cabinet consensus over the deal ahead of the key meeting of the European Council this week.

The Mail describes the deal as ‘meaningless’.

Aides to Prime Minister Theresa May told senior Brexiteers that promises of ‘full alignment’ between the UK and EU in the event no other deal were reached are ‘meaningless’, according to a report.
Senior figures with knowledge of the negotiations have claimed that the provision – which allegedly became part of the deal solely to calm Ireland’s fears of a hard border with the UK – ‘doesn’t mean anything in EU law’.
It comes as a separate report suggests the EU is being pressured by non-members to resist giving Britain a ‘lopsided’ deal that would upset third parties.
According to The Telegraph, a senior Eurosceptic source claimed the ‘full alignment’ phrase used during negotiations was understood by leading Brexiteers to be meaningless.
The provision was supposedly explained to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary Michael Gove as ‘not binding’.
Now there are fears the development will scare off the Irish government and cause a row between the Cabinet ministers in favour of a soft Brexit and those backing a clearer departure. 

The announced £39billion ‘divorce bill’ could still go up, says the Independent.

Britain’s final EU withdrawal bill could be as high as £100 billion, a former Brexit minister has suggested.
David Jones, one of the few Tory Brexiteers to publicly criticise the deal Prime Minister Theresa May reached with the European Commission in order to trigger trade talks, said the UK could end up paying a “monstrous” exit settlement two-and-a-half times the £39 billion figure floated by the Government.
The intervention came amid reports that prominent Leave campaigners such as Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will seek concessions from Mrs May on a sharper break from Brussels as “payback” for their support for her deal with the EU.
Mr Gove is keen to ensure the UK quits the common fisheries policy, despite the PM agreeing that the UK could retain “alignment” with the EU in areas that impact on Northern Ireland, according to the Sunday Times.

The prospect of Parliament getting a vote on the final deal is covered by BBC News.

A cross-party group of MPs says the promise of a “meaningful vote” for Parliament on any Brexit deal should be enshrined in the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Former Conservative attorney-general Dominic Grieve will table such an amendment to the bill later this week.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on EU Relations supports the move, urging backbenchers to put “the national interest” above party politics.
The amendment will be debated in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The Sun reports on a ‘blazing row’ between two of her Cabinet colleagues.

THERESA May stepped in to stop a blazing row between two top Cabinet Ministers, it emerged last night.
Tensions between Chancellor Philip Hammond and new Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson over defence funding boiled over in a heated Commons row.
The PM was forced to step in and break up the ‘toe to toe’ row during a Brexit vote on Wednesday night.
A source said: “She made it clear the two of them should grow up and calm down.
“After slugging it out toe to toe, they trudged off like naughty schoolboys.”
One Tory MP said: “The PM could see it was all getting out of hand and broke it up.”
It came after the Defence Secretary was said to be angry after allies of the Chancellor likened him to the Dad’s Army character Private Pike.
In retaliation, Mr Hammond was banned from using military aircraft as Treasury chiefs had failed to pay their six-figure travel costs.
Hammond then told a Commons committee that Williamson had yet to “get his head around” his department’s budget.
The pair are due to have talks over a £2 billion-a-year hole in the defence budget.

Trade deal

Now sufficient progress has been made, the UK/EU talks can move on to trade. The Express considers what sort of a deal could be made.

THERESA MAY should demand a “gold-plated” trade deal from the EU or proclaim it can wave any multi-billion pound pay-off goodbye.
Last night senior Brexiteers said the recent breakthrough in negotiations had strengthened Britain’s hand – and it is now time to act.
Crucial talks are set to start on Britain’s future relationship with the EU this week, with MPs claiming the behaviour of Brussels’ negotiators revealed that they both “need and want” a free-trade deal with the UK.
The 15-page agreement – which satisfied the condition of “sufficient progress” being made on citizens rights, Northern Ireland and the financial settlement – entrenched Mrs May’s caveat that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.
It also means Britain can withdraw its offer of paying up to £39billion to the EU if no deal is reached. Leading Eurosceptics have been emboldened by the sudden urgency with which EU chiefs Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk reacted to the talks appearing to fall apart at the beginning of last week following an intervention by DUP leader Arlene Foster.

And Brexiteers could demand a first-class deal, says Sky News.

Theresa May is poised for Brexiteers in her Cabinet to demand an ambitious trade deal in which Britain would refuse to accept EU regulations.
Boris Johnson and Michael Gove both voiced strong support for the Prime Minister and the divorce terms she agreed with Brussels in a last-minute breakthrough on Friday morning.
But as Mrs May’s top team holds its first discussions on the shape of a future trade relationship, the former figureheads of the Leave campaign are set to demand a “bespoke” deal in which Britain can make its own laws or ditch existing ones without EU approval.
Insiders have predicted clashes between the Brexiteers and those in Cabinet such as Amber Rudd and Philip Hammond who are seeking closer alignment with the European Union, in a meeting set for 19 December.
Mr Gove, the Environment Secretary, is reported to be pressing for Britain to leave the common fisheries policy and take control of its sovereign waters, even during a two-year transition period which the Government hopes to negotiate.

It looks like Brussels is going to play hard-ball over the trade deal, reports the Guardian.

Theresa May’s hopes of securing a unique post-Brexit trade deal with the EU were under threat on Saturday night as Brussels said it was coming under international pressure to deny Britain special treatment.
After a week that saw May reach a deal with the EU  that will allow Brexit talks to move forward on to future trade relations, EU officials insisted a bespoke deal more favourable to the UK than other non-EU nations was out of the question.
One EU source close to the talks said: “We have been approached by a number of [non-member] countries expressing concerns and making it clear that it would constitute a major problem for them if suddenly the UK were to get better terms than they get.”
The official said that once the UK is out of the single market and customs union in March 2019, there could be no replication of the terms of the current trading relationship, or anything close to it, and no special treatment.

The Express also reports the potential problems.

BRITAIN’S hopes of securing a unique post-Brexit trade deal have been dealt a blow as Brussels warned it was coming under global pressure to deny the UK special treatment.
After a groundbreaking week that saw Prime Minister Theresa May strike a deal with the European Union that will allow 
Brexit talks to move forward on to future trade relations, EU officials insisted a bespoke deal more favourable to the UK than other non-EU countries was out of the question.
One EU source close to the talks warned that the bloc “can’t upset relations with other countries” in order to make concessions with the UK and finalise a deal which it chooses.
He told the Observer: “We have been approached by a number of [non-member] countries expressing concerns and making it clear that it would constitute a major problem for them if suddenly the UK were able to get better terms than they get.”
The official said that once the UK is out of the single market and customs union in March 2019, there could be no replication of the terms of the current trading relationship, or anything close to it, and no special treatment.

And the Sun suggests the EU is not in a mood to give any concessions.

EXHAUSTED Theresa May was yesterday warned Brexit will only get TOUGHER – with 10 months to strike the outline of a free trade deal.
EU Council chief Donald Tusk said thrashing out the terms of a future trade agreement would be far harder than agreeing to the “first phase” of talks.
And he reminded the UK that we’d have to abide by the full suite of EU rules – including unlimited EU immigration in any two-year transition scheme that runs from Brexit to 2021.
Speaking after the Brexit breakthrough in Brussels yesterday he said: “Breaking up is hard, but building a new relationship is harder.”
Eurocrats want the outline terms of a future trading relationship between the UK and the EU to be agreed by October next year – five months before Brexit day at the end of March 2019.
Only then could “real negotiations” over a trade agreement take place.

A top minister has suggested that a General Election could allow us to change our minds over the £39billion payment, says the Star.

BRITS could still refuse to pay Europe’s £39 billion “divorce bill”, a senior Government minister has revealed.
Theresa May finally agreed a Brexit deal over key sticking points, such as the Northern Ireland border, yesterday, allowing talks to move onto a trade deal to secure the UK’s economy.
But many were staggered the PM has agreed to cough up between £35billion and £39billion to settle Britain’s debts with the EU.
Leave campaigner Michael Gove has offered an escape plan – by suggesting a general election would reset the clock and allow a future Government to ignore any agreement with Europe.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Gove said: “The British people will be in control. If the British people dislike the agreement that we have negotiated with the EU, the agreement will allow a future government to diverge.”
The Environment Secretary said that after a transition period, the UK would have “full freedom to diverge from EU law on the single market and customs union”.
Sources close to Mr Gove said the article had been encouraged and signed-off on by Downing Street.

And the Times claims Gove and Johnson will demand a hard Brexit.

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson will insist that Theresa May presses for a hard Brexit when Britain begins trade negotiations with Brussels — as payback for their support for her deal last week.
In a crucial breakthrough for the Brexiteers, the environment and foreign secretaries have won support from Gavin Williamson, the new defence secretary, to press for a clean break from European Union regulations, giving them a majority in the Brexit war cabinet.
The prime minister agreed a deal last week that will see the UK remain in “full alignment” with the EU on matters that affect Northern Ireland. But Gove will demand that Britain is allowed to leave the common fisheries policy and take back control of Britain’s sovereign waters.

EU

It seems anti-fraud officials have raised the European Court of Auditors, says the Express.

A PRO-Brexit MP has claimed that a recent raid on the European Court of Auditors – the watchdog of EU finances – suggests “something is rotten in the state of Brussels”.
The European Anti-Fraud Office raided the Luxembourg premises of the ECA last month – although neither body will confirm the incident.
The raid, which has gone largely unnoticed amid reports of the Brexit negotiations, is understood to be related to an ongoing investigation into the expenses claims of a Belgian official.
It forms one of around 220 open investigations by the fraud office into the misuse of EU funds.
The ECA has failed to sign off the EU’s accounts since 1994, claiming they are “materially affected by error”.
Brexiteer Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: “When the EU is having to continually investigate itself it suggests all is not well in Jean-Claude Juncker’s federalised fantasy land.
“Thank goodness we’re leaving this busted flush of a bloc behind.”

And the Express claims we’ll keep paying into the bloc, even after we leave.

THE EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has vowed the UK will prop up the Brussels budget into 2020, in what appears to be a concession to Germany.
Mr Barnier, the European Commission’s top Brexit negotiator, promised Brexit would not mean members would need to increase their contributions to the EU’s budget, which topped £136billion last year.
The EU was facing pressure from Germany which feared it would be left to them, the EU’s biggest contributor, to pick up the tab.
Already calculations from Germany’s Federal Court of Auditors estimated Berlin would have to boost its funding by about one third – from €15 billion in 2015 to around €20 billion once the UK leaves.
Fearing the prospect, Gunther Oettinger, the European Budget Commissioner, said the 27 states would have to fill the void that will be left by Britain.

And still the European Union is looking to expand, says Breitbart.

The prime ministers of Greece, Bulgaria and Romania have pledged support for Serbia’s membership in the European Union, saying it would boost stability in the Balkans.
Officials agreed at a meeting Saturday in Belgrade with Serbia’s president to improve trade, energy and transportation links between their countries.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says “Serbia no longer can be outside the European family.” He adds “we must cooperate … and promote peace and stability in the Balkans.”
Bulgarian Premier Boiko Borisov says “there is no better way for the Balkans than the EU way.”
Serbia has sought to also maintain close ties with its traditional ally Russia as it seeks EU entry after wars in 1990s. President Aleksandar Vucic says Serbia is on the EU road, but Moscow remains “a friend.”

And even though Turkey’s application to join has been suspended, the bloc is still preparing to hand over a huge cash sum, reports Westmonster.

The EU has signed up to paying Turkey around €7.4bn by 2020, despite suspending the country’s application to join the Brussels bloc – but the EU is only considering cutting these payments, not abolishing them altogether!
According to the EU’s own website, Brussels is committed to paying Turkey €4.4539bn by 2020 as part of the Instrument for pre-Accession Assistance scheme – that’s money given to countries who are undergoing the process of joining the European Union.
While the EU voted to suspend Turkey’s accession process in November 2016 following President Erdogan’s actions in the wake of the military coup, until it terminates the country’s accession process completely it still has to honour those payments.
Let’s not forget that hundreds of thousands of people have been detained under dubious circumstances since the failed military coup – the free press has been dismantled, teachers, police officers and politicians have been detained in droves. Turkey’s human rights record is in tatters.
The EU has also promised to pay Turkey €3bn by the end of this year (2017) to help tackle the continent’s refugee crisis.

Labour Party

The Times has a story about bribery in the world of property development.

Labour has been plunged into a corruption scandal after a businessman with close ties to the party was secretly recorded demanding a £2m bribe from property developers seeking to build one of Britain’s tallest skyscrapers.
In the recording — obtained by The Sunday Times — the businessman claimed he was acting on behalf of Labour politicians who could guarantee planning permission for the proposed £500m development in the Isle of Dogs, east London.
He was introduced by Shiria Khatun, a deputy mayor of Labour- controlled Tower Hamlets council, as someone who could assist with planning.
He later sent a contract to the developers setting out the illicit deal in which he would “deliver planning approval” from Tower Hamlets at a “premium of £2,000,000”.

Education

Student could save money by completing a three-year course in two years, says the Sun.

UNIVERSITIES are to offer fast-track degrees which will leave students around £25,000 better off.
The two-year courses will have the same qualification and quality as the standard three-year study.
Those who sign up for an “accelerated degree” will save £5,500 in tuition fees plus a year’s housing and living costs.
When added to the average salary of £19,000 for a new graduate, it could deliver a potential benefit of £25,000.
It will be welcomed by thousands of teens from poorer backgrounds who are eager to start work and earn a salary.
The plan, to be unveiled by ministers this week, will also save taxpayers cash by slashing the tuition loan outlay and improving repayment rates.
Those on three-year courses pay £9,250 a year in fees.
Universities will be able to hike accelerated course fees to £11,100 a year.

Alien life

And we can trust the Star to bring us a story about ‘little green men’.

NASA could be on the verge of an alien breakthrough and will reveal a new discovery next week.
The space agency is primed to reveal its latest major discovery after scanning planets outside our solar system for life.
Space fans worldwide are on the edge of their seats amid hopes the new find could shed light on the search for aliens.
The discovery has come from the team at the Kepler space telescope – which has been looking for habitable worlds outside the Solar System since 2009.
The telescope searches for Earth-sized planets in the “habitable zones” of nearby stars – and has found thousands of planets which could harbour life.

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