Customs union

Theresa May insisted Britain will have an ‘independent trade policy’ after 2020 today as she denied caving into the  EU over Brexit.
The Prime Minister faced a backlash from Eurosceptics after it emerged her ‘war Cabinet’ has signed off on an extension as part of a ‘backstop’ that would avoid a hard Irish border if no other solutions are found. She confirmed this evening the UK would soon be putting forward its plans for a fallback option to address the irish border question after Brexit. But she insisted the proposal would not prevent the UK striking trade deals with other countries.

BRUSSELS believes Britain may not be able to perfect a futuristic new ‘Max Fac’ customs system for decades, the Sun can reveal.
EU officials sarcastically predicted the Government’s hi-tech solution to the Irish border problem might not be ready until 2085. And they said the “virtual reality” plan – championed by Brexiteers – could add several minutes onto lorry checks causing a “nightmare” at Dover. As a result European leaders could keep renewing the transition period until an answer to the Irish conundrum is agreed.

The Brexit war cabinet has taken an important first step towards recognising the reality that whatever customs arrangements the UK agrees with the EU after Brexit, they cannot be made operational until 2023 at the earliest.
Despite the objections of some leading Brexiteers, cabinet  sources have told The Telegraph  that they have now accepted that there will need to be some form of prolongation of existing customs arrangements when the transition period expires at midnight on December 31, 2020. The move is seen as a victory for “soft” Brexiteers and has immediately raised concerns among those wanting a cleaner break, like Jacob Rees-Mogg.

THERESA May has denied climbing down over membership of the customs union after Britain leaves the European Union. Mrs May spoke in the wake of reports she was preparing for Britain to remain in the customs union after 2021 as a backstop as the row over the Ireland/Northern Ireland border continues.
She arrived at the EU Western Balkans summit in the Bulgarian capital Sofia with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron following a meeting with the two leaders.

BBC News
A customs proposal aimed at preventing a hard border in Ireland after Brexit has been agreed by cabinet.
Ministers signed off on the “backstop” that would see the UK match EU tariffs after 2020, if there is no deal on their preferred customs arrangements. Brexiteers fear the proposal amounts to staying in the customs union longer. No 10 says the UK would still be able to sign and implement trade deals, and the measure would only last for a matter of months. The UK is due to leave the European Union in March 2019, after which a 21-month transition period is due to begin, which aims to smooth the way to a post-Brexit relationship between the UK and EU.

Theresa May has said the UK will propose its own “backstop” solution for post-Brexit EU customs relations, to be put in place if no other deal can be reached. Ms May informed top EU figures at a summit that the UK’s plan would be coming soon, with London having said the current backstop option is “unacceptable”. It follows reports that the cabinet had agreed to keeping the UK in the EU’s customs union deeper into the 2020s, which Downing Street were quick to deny amid the threat of a Brexiteer backlash.


THERESA May will force a confrontation with pro-EU backbenchers next month, hoping to dismiss the charges she is running scared on key Brexit Bills.
Her flagship Brexit legislation was ripped apart in the House of Lords and the PM conceded the legislation could be held up until the autumn, after the long summer recess in July. But the PM’s official spokesman said: “The intention is to bring the bill back to the Commons within weeks not months”. “We have always been clear we will make sure we will have all the legislation in place in time for Brexit.” This week Labour accused her of “kicking the can down the road” as her legislation “has gone from being the Great Repeal Bill to the Great Delayed Bill”.

At the start of last year, Theresa May deployed a new phrase to define her tough approach to Brexit: that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. It was dropped into the middle of a speech without very much fanfare, so her aides drew attention to it afterwards in case anyone missed the new threat.
She wanted it to be known that, unlike David Cameron, she would play hardball with the European Union. His error had been to try to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership without saying he’d walk away if he didn’t get what he wanted. She would not be so naive. How distant that all seems now.


IRISH prime minister Leo Varadkar has revealed Theresa May could present an entirely new proposal for a future customs agreement between the UK and European Union post-Brexit.
After meeting with the Prime Minister at the EU’s Western Balkans summit in Sofia, Mr Varadkar said his British counterpart had given him fresh insight into Britain’s Brexit strategy. The Irishman described a “new thinking” by British negotiators and they could even offer a new customs proposal within the next two weeks.

Theresa May will outline fresh proposals to avoid a hard border in Ireland as early as next week.
No 10 denied the plan would hamper Britain’s ability to seek new free trade deals. Mrs May briefed Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, on the “backstop” proposals at the margins of an EU meeting in Sofia yesterday. Mr Varadkar expressed cautious optimism the proposals could be acceptable to the Irish government. “Any move on customs that brings the UK closer to the EU is to be welcomed,” he said.

Ireland’s prime minister has raised the spectre of a ‘no deal’ in Brexit talks, warning that Britain has yet to propose anything that “remotely approaches” a “workable and legally operable” solution to the Irish border issue.
Leo Varadkar  said if no “substantial” progress was made ahead of a Brussels summit next month there might be no withdrawal agreement, with Britain crashing out on WTO terms. The taoiseach’s intervention comes amid continued deadlock in Theresa May’s cabinet over how to approach the issue of customs and the border – with the lack of agreement among her own ministers translating into a lack of progress in Brussels.

The Irish premier has warned Britain that it must keep some ties to the single market with Brexit in order to avoid a hard border with the Republic. 
Leo Varadkar met PM  Theresa May yesterday and said he would welcome any customs move which brought the UK closer to the EU.  Addressing the problem of a potential hard border would ‘require more than just customs’, the Taoiseach said.  Mrs May said Britain would have an ‘independent trade policy’ after its departure but Ireland has proposed a ‘backstop’ if no new customs arrangements are finalised before the end of the transition period, the Telegraph reports.  

Second referendum

Jeremy Corbyn faced new pressure tonight as four senior MPs demanded a second referendum on Brexit.
The Merseyside Labour MPs broke ranks with their party leader’s policy as they called for a ‘People’s Vote’ on the UK’s final deal. Labour has said it is not calling for a second referendum after 52% of voters backed Leave in 2016. But ex-frontbenchers Alison McGovern, Luciana Berger and Maria Eagle argued a bad Brexit deal would be “catastrophic” for Labour’s northern heartlands and the NHS. They, MP Louise Ellman and Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson signed a joint open letter calling for Theresa May’s final deal with Brussels to be put to the public.

Air quality

The UK is facing a multimillion-pound fine for breaching air quality limits after the European Commission referred it and five other nations to the European Court of Justice.
The commission said that Britain had broken limits for nitrogen dioxide, largely produced by diesel vehicles, and had failed to provide “credible, effective and timely” plans to cut pollution. The hearing on the NO2 breaches is expected to take place within six months. The case relates to breaches of pollution limits in 16 urban areas including London, Birmingham, Leeds, and Glasgow.

The European Commission has launched legal proceedings against the governments of Britain and five other countries for repeatedly breaching legally binding EU air pollution  rules.
Environmental campaigners accused UK ministers of “apathy” after they failed to convince EU officials they were moving quickly enough to make British air safe to breathe – while the EU said the UK and its co-defendants had blown several “last chances” to put things right. Air pollution causes around 40,000 early deaths every year in Britain, according to the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

House of Lords

Theresa May is expected to approve the creation of about 10 Tory peers and hand at least one to Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party in an attempt to improve her weak position in the House of Lords, which has already voted 15 times against her government over Brexit. The elevations, which are expected to be announced in the coming days in Westminster, were immediately criticised by high profile remain Labour peer Lord Adonis as a desperate attempt by the prime minister to enlist people to boost her fragile position in the unelected upper house.


John Bercow has been accused of calling the Leader of the House of Commons a “stupid woman” during a foul-mouthed tirade in Parliament.
The Speaker, already facing multiple accusations of bullying, astonished MPs in the chamber on Wednesday as he allegedly muttered that Andrea Leadsom was “f—— useless”. Mr Bercow faced fresh pressure to quit by MPs who said his behaviour was “unbecoming of his position”. He did not deny making the comments and has not apologised to Mrs Leadsom, instead blaming his outburst on what he called “an unusual and controversial day” in the Commons in which “strong and differing views” were expressed.

Sky News
Commons Speaker John Bercow has been plunged into new controversy after being accused of calling a senior cabinet minister a “stupid woman”.
Conservative MPs claim he made the remark about the Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom – and used foul language – after launching a tirade against the government. Mr Bercow is said to have made the remarks – which he has not denied – after Prime Minister’s Questions as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was about to make a statement on railways. Labour’s chief whip Nick Brown rose to complain that the opposition had been denied a copy of the statement and that it was being made to cut into time allocated for an oppposition debate.

The Speaker of the House of Commons called a Cabinet Minister a ‘stupid woman’ and ‘f*****g useless’, it has been claimed.
John Bercow, who is already facing multiple allegations of bullying his staff, is said to have muttered the foul-mouthed phrase about Andrea Leadsom during an angry exchange in the Commons on Wednesday. A witness claims he saw Mr Bercow describe Mrs Leadsom as a ‘stupid woman’ under his breath, before adding that she was ‘f***ing useless’.  A source close to Mrs Leadsom, who was made aware of the alleged remarks by colleagues, said she was ‘stunned’ by the attack, but intended to ‘rise above it’. 

Tension between the Speaker and government ministers has flared into the open in an unprecedented series of exchanges in the chamber of the House of Commons
over the past 48 hours. On Wednesday, John Bercow was heard by some MPs calling Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House, a “stupid woman”. The aside apparently came after prime minister’s questions when Labour’s chief whip, Nick Brown, was complaining that the government was repeatedly breaching convention that time reserved for opposition debates should not be taken up with statements on government business.

Commons Speaker John Bercow was hit by claims tonight that he called Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom a “stupid woman”.
He was accused of making the remark under his breath about the Commons Leader after a clash about Parliamentary procedure. MPs made the accusation anonymously, and at least one claimed he added the words “f***ing useless”, according to The Sun and The Telegraph. An MP who claimed to witness the outburst told the Telegraph: “I thought what I was witnessing was entirely outrageous.” The alleged comments, after Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, cannot be heard on the audio feed of the Commons chamber.

Press freedom

Peers are considering yet another attempt to impose a Leveson-style inquiry on the press, despite MPs twice voting down the proposal.
Press reform supporters in the Lords have composed a further amendment to the Data Protection Bill demanding a “background review” into how journalists handled data between 2006 and 2011. It represents a watered-down version of similar Lords amendments that would in effect have required ministers to push ahead with the scrapped second part of the Leveson inquiry.

A Tory peer who tried to resurrect plans for another multi-million-pound Press inquiry yesterday told his fellow plotters it was time to give up.
Lord Attlee urged the Lords to abandon any more challenges after the Commons rejected an attempt to stage a further Leveson-style probe for a second time earlier this week. The peer, who was one of three Tories to back a rebel amendment to the Data Protection Bill, said they should not seek to hold the legislation ‘to ransom’. He added: ‘We have had a good battle and now we have lost.

A TORY Leveson rebel has switched sides to warn Labour peers against mounting a 
THIRD attempt to muzzle British newspapers. Earl Attlee – grandson of Labour PM Clement Attlee – has revealed fellow members of the upper chamber are plotting to derail the Government’s data bill with yet another amendment calling for a new probe into the media. He joined those who voted to reopen the Leveson Inquiry last week despite it being rejected by MPs. But now he claims a new attempt risks delaying the Data Protection Bill receiving Royal Assent, plunging the country into a legal black hole.


Cancer patients are being put at considerable risk because doctors are forced to give them unsuitable treatment by NHS rules drawn up behind closed doors, experts say.
As the result of a secretive decision by health chiefs, blood cancer patients are forced to have outdated chemotherapy rather than a more expensive modern medicine, more than a dozen specialists warn. Campaigners say patients could die early because of a ruling that they fear could set a precedent for other attempts to cut costs by denying patients treatment. While the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has often been criticised for medicines it deems poor value for money, there is mounting concern about attempts by NHS England to restrict even medicines Nice classes as cost-effective.

Some cancer patients wait well over a year for treatment after being referred by their GP, with one enduring a 541-day delay.
Another waited 446 days and a third was not treated for 361 days, even though NHS guidelines state cancer patients should wait no longer than 62 days. But two thirds of hospitals that provided figures for the Freedom of Information request – 58 out of 88 trusts – said at least one patient had waited more than six months. However, the hospitals concerned said that some of these patients had not intended to have treatment. Some were on care plans in which they were scanned, only being treated once tumours grew or spread.


Britain is readying plans to send hundreds of troops to Afghanistan in a move to help tackle the growing threat posed by Isil and the Taliban, according to reports.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is understood to be keen to nearly double the number of soldiers in the country if he is able to authorise such a move. It comes nearly two decades after Britain first deployed ground troops in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, and nearly four years after combat soldiers were withdrawn as Camp Bastion was handed over to Afghan security forces.

Britain could double its military presence in  Afghanistan  after mounting pressure from President Trump.
An extra 400 military personnel could be sent to the war zone as part of a Nato training mission. Whitehall sources told The Times that Theresa May was due to announce the plans at a summit of Nato allies in July, although the plans are yet to be signed off.  Mr Trump is also expected at the gathering in Brussels which takes place on July 11 and 12. Britain and its European allies fear the President will use the meeting to threaten to pull out of the Nato alliance out of frustration at Europe’s minimal defence spending.

The Defence Secretary has written to the Prime Minister asking for 450 more troops in Afghanistan, to help the British Army continue their fight against ISIS.
Gavin Williams wants to almost double the number of boots on the ground in the region, and bring the total number of soldiers in the area to 1,100. Mr Williamson is thought to have asked the Prime Minister for the extra forces last week. Nearly two decades after invading the nation in the weeks after the 9/11 attack, there are still 650 British personnel in Afghanistan. They are working with the Kabul security force. During a visit to Afghanistan earlier this year, the Defence Secretary said security in the region will “keep Britain safe.”

The UK government is considering doubling the number of troops deployed in
Afghanistan in response to a request from  Donald Trump for reinforcements in the face of increasing gains by the Taliban. Britain has about 600 troops in Afghanistan at present, mainly based in Kabul training officers and not engaged in combat. There is also a small contingent of special forces. The new deployment could see hundreds more return to Afghanistan. The UK  withdrew almost all of its combat troops from the country  in 2014. Faced with a Taliban resurgence, the US, which has about 15,000 troops in the country supporting the Afghan military, asked the UK and other Nato countries last summer to send reinforcements. Britain responded with an extra 85.


Isle of Thanet News
The crown court trial of South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay and two former aides on charges relating to false election expenses declarations has been delayed. Mr Mackinlay, 50, election agent Nathan Gray, 28, and party activist Marion Little, 62, were each been charged with offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983. Mr Mackinlay faced two charges, Mr Gray one charge and Ms Little three counts. All three pleaded not guilty at a previous hearing. The trial was due to begin at Southwark Crown Court today (May 14) but has been delayed for legal reasons. A new date has not been set so far.

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