Telegraph (by Nick Timothy)
On Wednesday, Theresa May confirmed that Britain will leave the EU’s customs union. Regarding what should come in its place, however, the Prime Minister finds herself boxed in. The House of Lords supports a new customs union with the EU. So do Tory rebels in the Commons, who might vote in favour of one with Labour. Watching eagerly is Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, who has been told by rebel MPs that he need not engage seriously with alternative customs proposals.
In a move that will worry many Brexiteers, Theresa May is being urged by some to back the ‘Max Fac’ Custom plan – but only by extending the ‘status quo’ EU transition period. That would efectively mean that whilst technology was being prepared to monitor goods and borders to ensure the UK has a fully independent trade policy moving forward, effectively all aspects of EU membership would continue to apply. The transition period, which includes open borders, is already set to last until 2021. And now the likes of May’s former Chief of Staff and MP Nick Boles have suggested extending the deadline and pushing back the timeline for independence even further. Many Leavers are already anxious they aren’t going to see any real change for a while. This will ring alarm bells.
European leaders pride themselves on how little they are conceding to Theresa May during the Brexit negotiations, but occasionally they realise she has to come away with something at the end of the process. Back in December, when the DUP left the Prime Minister shaken by threatening to pull its support over her handling of the process, Jean-Claude Juncker steadied her by ladling out some praise. Mrs May “was a tough, smart, polite and friendly negotiator”, he told reporters while standing alongside her. Such words helped her allay concerns about things she had agreed like the size of the so-called divorce bill, as she was able to portray the deal as a hard-won agreement.
BREXIT Secretary David Davis has warned Remoaner MEPs over delaying negotiations on a new security partnership with the UK following Brexit, stating the EU has “more to lose” than the UK. In a document presented to the European Commission, Mr Davis argued the EU had benefited vastly more than the UK from the European Arrest Warrant, allowing countries to extradite suspects to other EU nations. The veteran politician blasted: “Our negotiating partners have a choice: they can treat us as a third country according to existing precedents, creating something that falls well short of our existing relationship. “Or they can take a more adaptable approach in which we jointly deliver the operational capability that we need to tackle the ever-evolving threats to our shared security.
House of Lords
MORE than one in eight members of the House of Lords are Remoaner Lib Dems, despite the Europhile party having ONLY two per cent of Vince Cable’s party fill 12 seats of the 650 strong chamber in the House of Commons. However, in the unelected Lords, they account for a whopping 98 of the 782 members. Former Chancellor, Lord Lamont said the Lib Dems have “disproportionate” power in the House of Lords. “With just 12 MPs, the party has little impact on the Brexit debate in the Commons, but it is entirely different in the Upper House where there are nearly 100 Liberal Democrat peers, almost all of them devoted to the fight against Brexit.
The row over Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Brexit has exploded after five MPs from the party’s northern heartlands broke ranks and openly demanded a new referendum on the UK’s withdrawal deal. The MPs from the Northeast – which heavily backed Leave in the 2016 referendum – said a new vote is essential because the true nature of Brexit is only just emerging. Writing exclusively for The Independent, they warn plans to leave the single market will devastate family living standards as the future of major manufacturers and employers in their region is thrown into doubt. Their intervention comes amid rising anger over Mr Corbyn’s failure to seize a chance to force Theresa May into keeping Britain in the single market – despite it also potentially collapsing her government and creating an opportunity to win power.
Jeremy Corbyn’s team has warned Labour MPs not to expect a change in Brexit position after the Lords voted to keep Britain in the single market. About half of Labour’s backbench peers rebelled last night in a surprise move hailed by Chuka Umunna, the former shadow business secretary, as a “stunning victory”. Lord Kinnock, the former leader, Lord Reid of Cardowan, the former defence secretary, as well as Lord Hain, Lord Dubs and Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, the party’s former Lords leader, were among the 83 peers backing an amendment to keep Britain in the European Economic Area (EEA). It is made up of the 28 EU member states along with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Jeremy Corbyn’s office has signalled that the Labour leader will not throw his weight behind a proposal to keep Britain in the single market after Brexit. His spokesman said keeping the UK in the single market as it stands, could undermine Mr Corbyn’s plans to intervene in British industry and reverse privatisation if he wins power. It came after Labour peers in the House of Lords defied Mr Corbyn’s will and voted for an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill to effectively keep the UK in the single market – through membership of the EEA and EFTA – setting up a Commons vote on the matter in coming weeks. The Independent reported at the weekend that Tory rebel MPs now believe they have enough numbers to defeat the government in that vote, as long as Labour MPs also weigh in.
David Davis has accused the EU of putting lives at risk in a row with Brussels over Britain’s future role in the Galileo satellite project. The Brexit secretary warned the European Commission last night that its hardball negotiation was risking the ability of the UK to help face down threats from countries such as Russia. Galileo is the €10 billion EU rival to the US global positioning system which is used by millions of consumers. It was commissioned in 2003 and is due for completion by 2020. Last month the EU suggested that it may block Britain’s future role in the project after Brexit because there are legal issues about sharing sensitive information with a non-member state.
The British government has threatened weaker security cooperation and intelligence sharing with the EU after Brexit if the UK is excluded from the Galileo satellite navigation system once it leaves the bloc. A presentation drawn up by the British negotiating team and shown to EU officials warns that continued access to the system is a “test case” in the eyes of the UK for how closely Britain and the EU cooperate on security matters after they leave. The move is likely to enrage Brussels, where senior figures have previously accused the UK of trying to blackmail the EU by using its strengths in intelligence and security as a bargaining chip in talks. The Galileo system is an EU-developed and built equivalent to GPS, which is operated by the US military. The European system has a number of technical advantages over the existing generation of GPS and would be operated independently by Europe without reliance on the US.
Jeremy Hunt has said that he is likely to lobby the new home secretary for special visas for NHS and social care staff. Mr Hunt said he “should probably raise” the idea of a dedicated visa with Sajid Javid. Last week NHS Employers, the British Medical Association and the heads of royal colleges wrote to Mr Javid warning that medical staff that hospitals wanted to bring in from overseas were falling foul of caps on visa numbers. They said it had a “direct impact” on waiting times and costs, with the NHS using costly locums to fill rota gaps. It would be the latest in a string of demands from Mr Hunt to his cabinet colleagues.
A left-wing GP is calling for a daily cap on the number of patients he sees because he is ‘not prepared to die for the NHS’. Laurence Buckman claims that the health of doctors is being put at risk by stress and ‘unsafe’ working conditions. In an article for the British Medical Journal, he backed his union’s calls for GPs to only have to see a maximum of 35 patients a day. He wrote: ‘The time has come when the public has to be told that it is unsafe for them to be seen when the GP is not thinking optimally, and that tired GPs risk harming patients and themselves through stress-associated illness. ‘I am not prepared to die for the NHS. We must support the BMA’s recent call to limit the daily number of consultations.’ But Dr Buckman’s remarks are likely to anger patients, who are already waiting up to three weeks for an appointment.
Ministers have suspended controversial arrangements under which the NHS shared patients’ details with the Home Office so it could trace people breaking immigration rules. The government’s U-turn on a key element of its “hostile environment” approach to immigration came after MPs, doctors’ groups and health charities warned that the practice was scaring some patients from seeking NHS care for medical problems. Margot James, a minister in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, announced the rethink during a parliamentary debate on the data protection bill. She confirmed that the government had decided to suspend “with immediate effect” the memorandum of understanding (MOU) under which NHS Digital, the health service’s statistical arm, shared 3,000 NHS patients’ details with the Home Office last year so they could check those people’s immigration status. Patients had given their details when attending GP and hospital appointments.
The Home Office will no longer use NHS records to track down illegal immigrants, it has been announced. An agreement between the two organisations will be significantly narrowed so that health records will only be shared in cases involving “serious criminality”. The move was revealed by digital minister Margot James in the Commons on Wednesday. It came in response to an amendment to the Data Protection Bill, proposed by Health Select Committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston. Ms James said that ministers had “reflected” on the “concerns” and would change the agreement “with immediate effect”. The bar for sharing data will now be set “significantly higher”, she added. The changes to Home Office data collection start with immediate effect
Ministers hailed a “great victory for a free and fair press” yesterday after MPs voted down attempts to set up a new Leveson-style inquiry. The Labour proposal was defeated by nine votes — 304 to 295 — after free speech campaigners and experts in media law warned of a chilling threat to press independence. The proposed amendment, tabled by Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, would have required ministers to establish an inquiry into data protection breaches by media organisations, in effect the second part of the Leveson inquiry, which was scrapped in March. A second amendment by Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, which would have imposed cost sanctions on publishers that declined to join a state-recognised press regulator.
MPs hailed a ‘great day for a free and fair press’ this afternoon after Labour plans for another costly Leveson inquiry were rejected by Parliament. Ed Miliband led moves to amend a Data Protection Bill to establish another statutory inquiry into the Press dubbed ‘Leveson part two’. But despite a desperate speech to Parliament, the former Labour leader was humiliated when the move was voted down by MPs. And an attempt to change the law so that the press would have to pay for the legal costs of court cases – even if they win – were abandoned at the last minute in the wake of the defeat. Culture Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: ‘A great day for a free and fair press. We will work with closely IPSO [the press regulator] to make sure their important work continues.’
A Labour bid to force the government to hold a second public inquiry into press misconduct – promised at the height of the hacking scandal – has been defeated in the Commons. The government survived a small Conservative revolt aimed at reversing the decision to abandon a “Leveson 2” probe into “unlawful or improper conduct” by media organisations – but only by nine votes, by 304 to 295. Labour also abandoned an attempt to force media organisations to pay all legal costs in libel cases whether they win or lose, unless they sign up to a state-backed regulator. Most Tory MPs were ready to back Theresa May and other ministers who warned the move would “undermine” a free press and impose huge, unjust costs on them.
Plans for “catastrophic” press regulation measures have been defeated in the House of Commons. MPs voted 304 to 295 against introducing “Leveson II” after critics warned it would seriously hamper press freedom. Five Conservative MPs rebelled to support the measure, including former ministers Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve and Crispin Blunt, while Labour’s John Grogan rebelled to oppose the amendment. Former Opposition leader Ed Miliband tabled an amendment to the Data Protection Bill which would introduce a new statutory inquiry into the media and its relations with the police. In a blistering attack told ministers that their decision to shelve “Leveson II” had been “contemptible”.
A CRUDE Labour plan to cripple Britain’s free press was defeated yesterday as MPs voted for freedom. Culture Secretary Matt Hancock hailed a “great day for a free press” as the Government repelled the attempt to shackle newspapers by nine votes after a stormy Commons debate. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband had urged MPs to back his calls to trigger a second phase of the costly Leveson Inquiry by tabling an amendment to the Government’s data protection bill. It was defeated by 304 votes to 295 after two tense hours. Nine MPs from the Ulster unionist DUP party voted with the Government after an offer of a review into press ethics in Northern Ireland. Labour’s heavyweight deputy leader Tom Watson had planned a second amendment — which would have potentially saddled newspapers who refuse to sign up for state regulation with huge legal costs even if they won court battles.
Cambridge University is considering a demand from students for it to lower the burden of proof in disciplinary cases amid claims that sexual predators are not being held to account. More than 800 students have signed an open letter saying that the system “actively discourages” those affected from coming forward because of the high threshold. The university has previously admitted that it has a “significant problem” with sexual misconduct after almost 200 complaints. At present the university relies on the criminal standard of proof — beyond reasonable doubt — for all disciplinary cases other than ones relating to fitness to study. Those seeking change say that the civil standard of proof — based on the balance of probabilities — should be enough.
Cambridge University is facing pressure to make it easier for sexual predators to be found guilty in disciplinary cases. The university currently relies on evidence that is beyond reasonable doubt – the criminal standard of proof. However, more than 800 students have called for changes to the disciplinary system. They want the decisions to be based on the balance of probabilities – the lower, civil standard of proof. They have signed an open letter to vice-chancellor Professor Stephen Toope, claiming that ‘upholding a criminal standard of proof actively discourages survivors and victims of sexual harassment, rape and assault from engaging with the disciplinary procedure’.
Trains are to undergo a ‘digital revolution’ next year, the Transport Secretary has announced. All new trains and rail signalling will be digital or digital-ready from next year to reduce overcrowding and cut delays. Chris Grayling described the move as a ‘digital rail revolution’. Meanwhile Network Rail’s chief executive Mark Carne called it the biggest breakthrough for passengers since steam trains were replaced with diesel trains more than 50 years ago. Network Rail will install digital traffic lights to enable trains to run closer together, boosting frequency, speed and reliability. It will add capacity for 40,000 more passengers on trains through London Bridge.