Brexit

Independent
Downing Street has dismissed reports that Theresa May has struck a preliminary deal with Brussels to offer City firms continued access to European markets after Brexit. The pound surged overnight in response to speculation that white smoke was emerging in the talks with the EU, which have entered their critical final phase. However Number 10 described the report in
The Times as “speculative” while the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the claims were “misleading”, as negotiations are ongoing. It comes amid confusion in Westminster over how close politicians are to achieving a deal after Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, suggested that overall agreement could be reached within weeks. EU officials are ramping up preparations for a no-deal, as no progress appears to have been made since the meeting of the European Council two weeks ago.

Reuters
The United Kingdom and the European Union have made progress on a deal to give London’s dominant financial centre basic access to EU markets after Brexit, two British officials said, but no agreement has yet been clinched. The deal being discussed would be based on the EU’s existing system of financial market access known as ‘equivalence’ – a watered-down relationship that officials in Brussels have said all along is the best arrangement that Britain can expect.

Independent
No 10 has admitted it has yet to decide whether free movement of EU citizens will continue after a no-deal Brexit, with less than five months until departure day. The “work is ongoing”,Theresa May’s spokesman said, after the home secretary and a senior Home Office civil servant contradicted each other within 24 hours. Sajid Javid said there would have to be “sensible transition period” during which new EU arrivals could continue to work – one day after his official said free movement would be “turned off”.

Breitbart
Brits want the UK to get on with leaving the EU by a 2-1 margin according to a new poll, with only around a quarter of Brits wanting to stop Brexit. The Deltapoll gave people several options, including to scrap Brexit and Remain in the EU. However just 26% back the hardline Remoan position, whilst a clear majority (55%) now want the UK to Leave. The poll gave the public these options: Brexit should be abandoned altogether – 26%; Carry on with Chequers – 10%; May should try and negotiate a new deal before 29th March 2019 – 14%; Delay Article 50 to come up with a better deal – 9%; Refuse to concede anymore and leave with No Deal – 22%.

Sun
LABOUR could be wiped off the map if the party tries to block Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn was warned today. Party veterans claimed the leftie leader is turning off Leave voters with his metropolitan agenda. And they insisted Labour will be fighting for its future if they refuse to accept the result of the 2016 referendum. Around a third of Labour voters supported Brexit – even though the party leadership is heavily pro-Remain. Ex-MP Gisela Stuart, who chaired the Vote Leave campaign, said today: “Nobody out there has changed their mind.”

Ireland

Express
IRELAND, led by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, is “riding roughshod” over the terms of 1998’s Good Friday agreement in its approach to Brexit negotiations – and risking a return to the dark days of sectarian violence in the process, former Unionist leader David Trimble has claimed. Mr Trimble, who is the former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, has been seen as instrumental in getting the rest of his party to accept the landmark accord which brought an end to the Troubles – and the violence that scarred Northern Ireland for decades.

Reuters
European Union negotiators have floated a tentative Brexit plan to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and to give Britain stronger guarantees that a customs border would not be needed along the Irish Sea, the Financial Times said on Thursday. As Reuters reported last month, EU negotiators offered to include a plan in the withdrawal agreement to keep mainland Britain in a customs union after Brexit in order to avoid a hard border.

Fisheries

Guardian
Theresa May is facing fresh opposition from EU countries that have large fishing communities to her demands for an agreement before Brexit day on a temporary customs union to solve the Irish border problem. A number of key member states are expected to oppose a commitment to an all-UK customs deal on the basis that negotiations are yet to start on what access European fishing boats will have to British waters after Brexit. The EU has repeatedly said it will only allow British seafood exporters tariff- and quota-free access to the European market in return for an agreement that its fishing fleets can continue to operate around the UK.

David Cameron

Telegraph
David Cameron is eyeing a return to frontline politics, according to a report that raised eyebrows from opposition MPs. The former prime minister, who was replaced by Theresa May two years ago after the Brexit result, is reportedly interested in becoming foreign secretary in the cabinet of whoever succeeds Mrs May in No 10. “David is dedicated to public service, and has often said he wouldn’t rule out a public role one day, domestically or internationally,” a source told the Sun. “But he is only 52, and still a young man.”

Sun
DAVID Cameron has told friends he is mulling a return to frontline politics, and fancies being Foreign Secretary. The former PM is hoping for a Cabinet recall after a new Tory leader succeeds Theresa May. Mr Cameron knows any return to Westminster would have to wait until some time after the publication of his memoirs, which are now expected next Spring. He is expected to use his biography to brutally settle scores with some serving senior ministers – especially former friend the Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who lead the EU referendum’s Leave campaign that eventually saw him toppled.

Express
DAVID CAMERON could be vying for a return to frontline politics as a close friend of his has revealed he is “bored s***less” two years on from leaving Number 10 and resigning as an MP. A source whom the former Prime Minister confided in disclosed Mr Cameron would not rule out a return to UK politics if a future Tory leader asked him to come back. The role Mr Cameron would assume is not entirely clear but the insider implied it could be Foreign Secretary. Speaking to The Sun, the source said: “David is dedicated to public service, and has often said he wouldn’t rule out a public role one day, domestically or internationally. “But he is only 52, and still a young man.”

Times
David Cameron is said to have told friends that he is considering a return to frontline politics. The former prime minister apparently confided that he was bored two years after resigning following the Brexit referendum and would like a spell as foreign secretary. The Sun quoted a source as saying: “David is dedicated to public service and has often said he wouldn’t rule out a public role, domestically or internationally. He is still a young man.” The newspaper added that Mr Cameron, 52, who was the Conservative MP for Witney in Oxfordshire from 2001 to 2016, was aware that any return would have to wait until “some time” after the publication of his memoirs, which is expected next year.

Independent
The rumoured return of David Cameron to frontline politics has been described as “bizarre” and “unreal” by politicians. Shadow education minister Angela Rayner was among a number of MPs to react to a report in
The Sun that the former prime minister hoped to return as foreign secretary. “David is dedicated to public service, and has often said hewouldn’t rule out a public role one day, domestically or internationally,” the tabloid quoted a source close to Mr Cameron as saying. “But he is only 52, and still a young man.”

Guardian
Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, has labelled the rumoured return of David Cameron to frontline politics as “bizarre”. Rayner, the MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, was among a series of Labour MPs who reacted to reports of the former prime minister being interested in the job of foreign secretary. The Sun reported the 52-year-old told friends he wanted to return to the front benches, two years after leaving No 10 in the wake of the Brexit vote. Rayner tweeted: “Just when you thought politics couldn’t get anymore bizarre. “No David please stay in retirement you caused enough damage last time.”

Huffington Post
In what would be the most outrageous comeback since Lazarus, it has been reported that ex-Prime Minister David Cameron could return to frontline politics because he is “bored shitless” – and social media has reacted with its usual calm. According to the Sun, Cameron – who famously left Number 10 and resigned as an MP after failing to convince UK voters to remain in the EU in 2016 – has told friends he has his sights set on becoming Foreign Secretary when Theresa May is replaced as Tory leader.

NHS

Times
NHS hospitals will pay for the cost of new visas for thousands of EU staff in an effort to prevent an exodus after Brexit. University College London Hospitals (UCLH), St George’s Hospitals and Guy’s and St Thomas’, all in London, will cover the costs of applications for “settled status” in Britain, with other trusts said to be considering the move. An investigation last week by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that crucial hospitals across England relied on EU citizens to fill more than one in five doctor or nurse positions.

FGM

Breitbart
London police have failed to bring a successful prosecution for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), despite almost 750 reports of the grisly crime being dealt with by the force in the past five years. Over the past decade, the city’s Metropolitan Police Services have referred just 37 cases to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), figures obtained by the broadcaster ITV reveal. Meanwhile, 748 people reported FGM concerns since 2013. If the number of FGM reports made in the period from 2008 remained stable and reflected the figures between 2013 and today, the figures would suggest just 2.5 per cent were referred for prosecution in ten years.

South Thanet

Sky News
A Tory MP accused of overspending in his election campaign has told a jury he was “clueless” when it came to his expenditure. Craig Mackinlay, who is an accountant by profession, told Southwark Crown Court he did not know anything at all about what was being spent. Mr Mackinlay is on trial with two others accused of exceeding the expenses limits during his 2015 election campaign. The court heard how his seat of South Thanet in Kent was “arguably one of the most important” of the general election, after Nigel Farage, then UKIP leader, announced his candidacy there.

Arron Banks

Times
The multimillionaire Brexit campaigner Arron Banks is under criminal investigation over claims that he hid the source of illegal overseas donations used to fund the referendum campaign. The National Crime Agency is also investigating Better for the Country, the organisation that ran the Leave.EU referendum campaign, Leave.EU itself, and Elizabeth Bilney, the Leave.EU chief executive. The investigation will focus on £2 million reported to have been lent to Better for the Country by Mr Banks and his group of insurance companies and a further £6 million reported to have been given to the organisation, on behalf of Leave.EU, by Mr Banks alone.

Guardian
The National Crime Agency is to investigate allegations of multiple criminal offences by Arron Banks and his unofficial leave campaign in the Brexit referendum, prompting calls from some MPs for the process of departing the European Union to be suspended. The NCA would look into suspicions that a “number of criminal offences may have been committed”, the Electoral Commission said in a statement, saying there were reasonable grounds to suspect Banks was “not the true source” of £8m in funding to the Leave.EU campaign.

Mail
Theresa May has ‘serious questions to answer’, says a Labour MP over revelations she stepped in to stop security services probing Arron Banks on the eve of the Brexit referendum. The Mail understands that in early 2016 the then home secretary Theresa May declined a request by one of the security services to investigate Banks- as the topic was simply too explosive in the run up to the referendum. The revelation comes just a day after Britain’s FBI confirmed they are investigating Arron Banks for ‘multiple suspected offences.’ The discovery May stopped security services probing Banks has sparked a furore online and Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who was Labour’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport from 2009 to 2010, has called for answers.

Police

Telegraph
Sajid Javid is at the centre of a police revolt over moves to expand hate crimes as five chief constables warned it could prevent forces from solving violent crime and burglaries. One revealed his force had decided against recording misogyny because of the danger of being swamped with bureaucracy. Another said forces were in crisis in face of rising crime and reduced resources. The police chiefs weighed in behind a warning by Sara Thornton, head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), that while logging and investigating complaints of misogynist abuse might be “desirable,” police did not have the time or resources.

Child grooming

Westmonster
Home Secretary Sajid Javid has one again highlighted the appalling string of child sex abuse gangs comprising disproportionately of men of Pakistani heritage. Speaking last night on ITV’s Peston, Javid said that it was a “statement of the obvious that if you look at the recent high-profile convictions of group-based child sexual exploitation, the overwhelming majority have been of people of Pakistani heritage”. Addressing Labour MP Chuka Umunna, Javid said: “Here we are specifically talking about group-based, gang-based child sexual exploitation, that’s what all these recent convictions have been about.

Sun
MEMBERS of a Huddersfield grooming gang who sexually abused vulnerable girls in a campaign of abuse that “defies understanding” have been jailed today. Mohammed Akram, Niaz Ahmed, Mohammed Imran Ibrar and Asif Bashir were all sentenced to between three and 17 years in prison at Leeds Crown Court. Last month they were convicted of a string of sex offences against three victims between 2004 and 2010 – who were plied with drugs and alcohol before being abused. The four, nicknamed Kid, Junior, Shaw and Bully, were part of a 20-strong grooming gang and carried out “inhuman” abuse of 15 girls aged 11 to 17.

Fracking

Independent
The government’s plans to fast-track new fracking projects have been described as “ludicrous” and “downright bonkers”, by their own MPs. Politicians from all parties lined up at a parliamentary debate to criticise a proposal to reclassify exploratory fracking wells as permitted developments, under rules originally introduced to speed up projects like small property extensions. The government has stated it wishes to make such decisions “faster and fairer”, but opponents said it would make fracking as easy as putting up a garden shed.

Guardian
A growing number of Tory MPs are turning against fracking, according to one MP with a drilling site in his constituency. Lee Rowley, who chairs the new all-party parliamentary group looking into the impact of shale gas, told the Guardian he was seeing increasing numbers of colleagues with worries about hydraulic fracturing. “I think there are more Conservative MPs than perhaps assumed who have concerns about this,” said Rowley, who became the first Conservative MP for North East Derbyshire for 80 years when he won the seat from Labour in 2015.

Gambling

Telegraph
Theresa May has suffered the resignation of her sports minister and been warned that she now faces a rebellion from up to 35 of her MPs over the Government’s decision to delay curbs on “crack cocaine” gambling machines. Tracey Crouch quit in protest at the “unjustifiable” decision to delay cutting the stakes on fixed odds machines by six months and warned the Prime Minister that the failure to act will cost lives. As first disclosed by The Telegraph, Ms Crouch was left furious after the Treasury announced in the Budget that the maximum stake for fixed odds betting terminals will not fall from £100 to £2 until October 2019.

Times
Conservative MPs vowed last night to exact revenge on Theresa May after she forced Tracey Crouch to quit in a row over action to curb highly addictive gambling machines. The sports minister resigned after the prime minister refused to bring forward to April a cut in the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2. In her resignation letter Ms Crouch said that a six-month delay to October 2019 would mean that another £1.6 billion was lost on the machines.

Independent
Tracey Crouch has resigned as sports minister after the government refused to back down on the timetable for slashing the maximum stake for highly-addictive gambling machines. The MP had lobbied for the change to be made earlier than the planned date of October 2019 but quit after senior ministers refused to budge. Betting companies had reportedly said they would be ready to implement the cut to fixed-odds betting terminal (FOBTs) stakes by next April, but the government confirmed in the Budget that the change would not be made until next October.

Climate change

Mail
Tropical nights are on the rise throughout the UK and are now starting to occur as far north as Middlesbrough. A new Met Office report has revealed that heatwaves in the UK are also now lasting twice as long as they did 50 years ago, thanks to climate change. As well as warmer spells lasting longer than ever before, the chilliest times of the year are now less cold than they were in the past. The Met Office report focuses on weather extremes and reveals that the duration of warm spells has more than doubled in the last 50 years.

Independent
MPs and the heads of environmental organisations have written to Theresa May saying the Budget presented to parliament on Monday is an “unforgivable betrayal of future generations”, due to its “worrying lack” of policy to combat climate change. Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas and six other MPs, including Labour’s Clive Lewis and former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron signed the letter, which says “pushing policymaking into the long grass of Brexit at this stage represents an abject failure to govern in the interests of the people you are elected to serve.”

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