THERESA May was warned she cannot rely on backing from a potentially crucial group of MPs when she puts her Brexit deal to a vote in the House of Commons. The Democratic Unionist Party said it was “not afraid” to defeat a deal if it was not in Northern Ireland’s interests – even if that paved the way for a general election. The party’s chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson rejected suggestions his party would never do anything to hasten an election because it could let Jeremy Corbyn – who has a history of past closeness with Irish republicans – into power. Since Mrs May lost the Tories’ Commons majority in last year’s election, she has depended on a “confidence and supply” agreement that the DUP’s 10 MPs support her in key votes.
Cabinet ministers have told Theresa May that her Brexit deal must not mean that Britain remains in the single market “by the backdoor” by signing up to last-minute concessions to the EU. Ministers are increasingly concerned that Mrs May is about to announce that Britain will be forced to stick with EU rules on state aid, workers’ rights and the environment. Whitehall sources said that this was the price the EU was understood to be seeking to allow a customs agreement as part of the Northern Ireland backstop, the insurance policy to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Cabinet ministers are pushing Mrs May to clarify the position.
SENIOR Brexiteers have claimed Theresa May’s plan to farm out a decision on when Britain can leave the customs union is swelling a backbench rebellion against her. A joint arbitration mechanism on how to end the UK’s participation in the Irish backstop is being drawn up by No10 and EU officials in Brussels to break a talks deadlock. Ireland and the EU refused the PM’s initial demand that the UK be allowed to walk out of the arrangement to keep the border open after a set period of time if no trade deal is done. But Jacob Rees-Mogg branded the compromise mechanism – that is likely to involve a joint committee – “a betrayal of the Brexit vote”. And as word of it spreads among backbench Tory MPs, the boss of the hardline European Research Group said it was acting as a recruiting tool to bolster his 40-strong alliance of backbenchers who have vowed to vote down Mrs May’s softer Brexit deal.
Theresa May appears to be edging closer to a Brexit deal after she showed Cabinet ministers a draft of a withdrawal agreement she intends to put to Brussels. Mrs May hopes they will rubber-stamp the proposal at a special Cabinet meeting in the next few days, but her plans have been delayed by ministers demanding to see the full legal advice on which it is based. Michael Gove and other ministers have insisted they cannot make an informed decision without seeing the full legal advice drawn up by Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, which underpins the proposal. Ministers were invited to the Cabinet Office on Wednesday to read a copy of the proposed withdrawal agreement.
Theresa May has invited ministers in to start reading the text of a proposed Brexit agreement ahead of a crunch cabinet meeting. Members of her top team will have the chance to view the almost complete draft withdrawal agreement, but it will not include the crucial section on how Ms May will address the highly contentious issue of the Irish border. The prime minister is likely to focus on this final element at a critical cabinet get-together, which is likely to be held next week, as she pushes to get the Brexit deal locked in. The Independent reported on Tuesday that the cabinet is edging towards an agreed position on the withdrawal deal, with Downing Street confident that if the final issue holding it – the so-called Irish backstop – can be solved, then a deal including outline future trading relations could be sealed with the EU and voted on by MPs before the Christmas break.
Cabinet ministers have been invited to read the UK’s draft deal with the EU although it’s not yet complete. Theresa May has said the withdrawal deal is 95% done – but there is no agreement yet on how to guarantee no hard border in Northern Ireland. This is proving to be the most contentious area, with the UK prime minister under pressure from her own party as well as the EU. The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019. But as yet there is no withdrawal deal in place, and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said it was “clear that more work is needed”.
Pressure on the government to provide details of legal advice about a possible Brexit deal is growing, with the DUP, Labour and Lib Dems demanding it be published, following calls from cabinet ministers to see the full document. One option could be for Labour to seek to force publication via a Commons motion, as the party did with the government’s Brexit impact assessments. Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP’s chief whip at Westminster, said the party, which supports Theresa May in government, would like to see the full document published, allowing not only ministers but MPs and the public to assess it. The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, said the advice must be released to MPs so they can scrutinise the document, while the Lib Dems called for the advice to be published in full.
Theresa May is under increasing pressure to share the legal advice behind her Brexit plans with her Cabinet and Democratic Unionist Party allies. The Cabinet is on stand-by for fresh talks to agree a Brexit deal amid claims by Tory Leavers that the Prime Minister has already reached an agreement. But Brexiteers, including Environment Secretary Michael Gove, want to see the full legal advice setting out how any customs arrangement to avoid a hard Irish border could be ended to avoid it becoming a permanent settlement. This would severely curtail the UK’s ability to strike free trade deals with nations around the world – a key prize for Brexiteers.
LABOUR tonight allied with Tory rebels to force Theresa May to publish key Brexit legal advice as she pleaded with EU leaders for more time to cut a deal. Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said his party will use “parliamentary procedures” if the PM withholds the dossier on the Irish backstop, demanded by MPs across the Brexit divide. The fresh headache for the PM came as she rang German leader Angela Merkel and EU Council boss Donald Tusk today. Mrs May pleaded with them to keep the chance of a deal this month alive as she admitted she still needs more time to work up a compromise plan to allow the UK to one day escape the Irish backstop that keeps us in the customs union.
The convention that legal advice to the cabinet is never published is enforced by the ministerial code. That ban has not halted successive demands for greater political openness. Theresa May’s decision to prevent cabinet ministers from seeing the full text of the Brexit guidance provided by the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox QC, appears, however, to introduce an additional restriction on the circulation of information at the highest levels of government. Section 2.12 of the ministerial code explicitly declares that if law officers, such as the attorney general, provide legal advice then cabinet ministers should expect to see the entire text. According to reports the environment secretary, Michael Gove, has asked to see the full advice. It reads: “When advice from the law officers is included in correspondence between ministers, or in papers for the cabinet or ministerial committees, the conclusions may if necessary be summarised but, if this is done, the complete text of the advice should be attached.”
A senior Cabinet minister has insisted it is “not normal” for the Government to publish full legal advice amid mounting pressure to release documents linked to Brexit. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, the Government’s chief legal adviser, could answer questions in the Commons and added a decision to release legal advice would be one in “exceptional circumstances” by the Prime Minister. Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who chairs the Eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG), suggested the information should “certainly be made available” to Cabinet ministers to ensure they know what they are signing up to.
SINN Fein has accused Irish leader Leo Varadkar of a Brexit “cock-up” after he said he was open to considering a review clause to the backstop. The Republican party’s leader Mary Lou McDonald lashed out at the taoiseach (Irish prime minister) over plans for a backstop to resolve the Irish border deadlock. She claimed Mr Varadkar is shifting the Irish government’s position as Brexit negotiations enter their most crucial stage after comments made in the Republic’s Dáil government. Theresa May’s British government wants a backstop – which could see the UK remain under EU-customs rules until a final deal is thrashed out – to have a time limit. But the EU has demanded something legally binding and permanent, although a review clause to monitor how the backstop is progressing has been suggested.
DAVID CAMERON has broken his silence on Theresa May’s Brexit plans after a turbulent few months for the Prime Minister as she grapples with the most significant constitutional decision the country has made since the end of the Second World War. The former Tory leader was seen walking past No10 on Wednesday where he was stopped and questioned by reporters on his support of Theresa May. Speaking to Sky News, he insisted he “fully supports” the Prime Minister as he denied he was visiting Westminster to advise his successor. Mr Cameron has remained tight-lipped on Brexit and his successor’s handling of negotiations since he resigned and his offer of support for Mrs May was a rare – if brief- comment on her leadership.
Former prime minister David Cameron has told Sky News he is in full support of Theresa May as she battles to get a Brexit deal. Spotted walking past 10 Downing Street on Wednesday, the ex-Tory leader denied he was in Westminster to advise his successor. He said: “I’m on my way to the Treasury. I fully support what she’s doing and want to let her get on with the job.” The former premier added: “I’m doing some work on my book. You’re able to go in and see that papers that you saw, so I’m doing some research on my book, that’s what I’m doing.”
Journalists will be prevented from investigating bullying claims against Keith Vaz after the Commons Speaker invoked ancient parliamentary rules. John Bercow declared that the same privilege that allows MPs and peers to speak freely in parliament should apply to documentation relating to official trips abroad made by the Labour MP. The exemption to the freedom of information laws that were used cannot be appealed against because it would require a judge to review the decisions of the Commons Speaker, which are themselves covered by privilege.
John Bercow has used his official powers to hush up information about the behaviour of disgraced Labour MP Keith Vaz. The Commons Speaker used parliamentary privilege to block a freedom of information request from the BBC. The corporation’s journalists were trying to find out information about Mr Vaz’s behaviour on official trips abroad, during which he was accused of breaking parliamentary rules and bullying staff. An initial request was refused, but the rules allow appeals to be referred to the Information Commissioner, and then to the courts. Mr Bercow used privilege to block the request under section 34(3) of the Freedom of Information Act. This allows the Speaker to issue a ‘certificate’ to prevent the request to avoid ‘infringement of the privileges of either House of Parliament’.
A leaked email from the European Parliament confirms what many of us have suspected for some time: there is a palpable level of collusion between the British political class and the EU to stop Brexit. The email in question was sent yesterday by an SNP MEP called Alyn Smith to all 751 MEPs who sit in the parliament. In it, Smyth pushed for “an extension of the Article 50 timetable”. Smith’s missive, signed by 13 other British MEPs, stated: “Despite our political differences, as U.K. MEPs we are united around one fact: if you wish to allow the U.K. to remain within our EU family, then all ways to do so will necessitate an extension of the Article 50 timetable.
SPAIN is deeply worried by the “negative consequences” Brexit could have on the nation’s fishing industry, one of the country’s minister conceded after revealing the government is taking “measures” to protect Spain’s fishermen. Spain’s Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, spoke to senators in Madrid about Brexit and the consequences the UK withdrawal from the EU could have on his country. The lack of an agreement between Britain and the European Union just five months ahead of Brexit day is raising concerns in Spain about the knock-on effect it will have on the Spanish fishing industry.
Emmanuel Macron is “in panic” over next year’s EU Parliament elections, Marine Le Pen has said, after the President issued an urgent warning against voting for populists. The globalist French leader’s comments in an interview with Europe 1 Tuesday morning, when he likened anti-mass migration conservative movements in EU countries to 1930s national socialism, were “utterly corny”, according to Le Pen. Noting Macron’s remarks were “nothing new in French political discourse”, the Rassemblement National (RN, formerly Front National) leader said: “I have the impression that all my life I have been hearing Europe is peace, nation states are war.”
SAJID Javid opened the door to greater powers for the police – as he urged cops to do more to tackle the bloodletting on Britain’s streets. The Home Secretary insisted police “step up” their response to the knife crime attacks “to get the situation under control” in a phone call with Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick. And he urged Britain’s top cop to “make full use” of stop and search powers they already have in their armoury. But he added he was determined to “make sure the police have the powers and tools they need” – and would do everything in his power to support them.
The home secretary has told Sky News the police need more funding to help tackle knife crime as he hinted the chancellor would be stumping up the cash in the coming weeks. Speaking exclusively to Sky News in the wake of five fatal stabbings in the capital in just seven days, Sajid Javid said he was “deeply worried” about the spiralling violence and said he was in discussions with the chancellor to make sure the police had the financial resources they needed. “I think resources is part of the issue, making sure that police as they deal with more of these complex situations that they have the resource they need,” he told Sky News.
Tens of thousands of patients with type 1 diabetes are being denied a modern glucose monitoring device that Theresa May uses and has said is available on the NHS, a report says. A flash glucose monitoring device gauges blood sugar levels via a sensor attached to the skin. It can be paired with a smartphone app so users can track their blood glucose levels without having to draw blood. One model is offered on prescription, the Freestyle Libre, which Mrs May recently said was available on the NHS. However, an investigation by activists, reported in The BMJ, suggested that about one in four clinical commissioning groups in England was not recommending it even when patients met the criteria.
Theresa May is warned by senior Tories today to end the benefit freeze for seven million people or see her party suffer at the next election. The freeze, introduced by George Osborne in 2015, means a real-terms cut in income for millions of people and is due to continue until April 2020. Five former cabinet ministers, including Justine Greening and David Davis, are leading the call for benefits to be raised now, in line with inflation. The £1.4 billion move is also backed by Nicky Morgan, chairwoman of the Treasury select committee, the former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and the former universities minister Lord Willetts.
As the plans for universal credit were being finalised a senior official at the Treasury picked up the phone to the Department for Work and Pensions. He was shouting so loudly that Iain Duncan Smith could hear him from the other side of the room in which the call was taken. “He was saying, ‘Your boss is mad, you’re all completely mad, we’re not going to have this’,” recalls the former work and pensions secretary. When the tirade ended the “quiet man” of politics was so furious that he turned to his official and said: “Next time he calls tell him that if he ever speaks to anybody in this department like that again, he’ll be eating his own balls for breakfast.”
An estimated 90,000 Britons will die by 2050 from infections that are treatable unless effective action is taken to deal with drug-resistant microbes, researchers say. A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development also said that over the next 30 years superbugs could kill 1.1 million people in North America and Australia and 1.3 million in Europe. However, the authors of the report added that simply by implementing sensible policies on handwashing and by cutting down on the overprescription of antibiotics the figure could be reduced by a million, even without the development of new drugs.
LETHAL superbugs will kill more than 90,000 Brits over the next three decades, a report warns. Experts claim drug-resistant infections could spell the “death of modern medicine” – making routine operations and minor injuries deadly. But three in four superbug deaths could be prevented with basic measures such as better handwashing and doling out fewer antibiotics. Research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates drug-resistant infections could kill 2.4 million people in Europe, North America and Australia over the next 30 years. It includes 90,045 deaths in the UK by 2050.