Brexit

Express
THE European Union could end up “empty-handed” if the bloc pushes Britain too hard in the search of a good Brexit transition deal, a political analyst has warned. Britain and the EU are on a collision course as March 29, 2019 – the date the UK quits the bloc – draws ever closer.  The EU wants to finalise an agreement on the details by autumn this year, in order that the national parliaments of the 27 member states and the European Parliament can agree to a deal.  Amid fears time is running out, a political analyst has warned the EU could risk getting nothing from the deal if the bloc’s negotiators push Britain too far. 

Telegraph
British Brexit negotiators are closing in on securing a deal on the transition period and have surprised their European Union counterparts with their “strong will” to strike an agreement to effectively prolong Britain’s membership of the single market and customs union for about two years after March 29 2019. London is targeting the March 22 European Council summit to secure agreement on the transition period, which is needed to give valuable time for the government and businesses to prepare for Brexit.  During transition, Britain will lose all EU voting rights but will have to implement all new and existing EU laws.

Express
A BREXIT speech by Vince Cable where the Lib Dem leader appeared to accuse Leave voters of being driven by racism, has sparked calls to the police to investigate allegations of a hate crime. London Assembly member David Kurten, a leading mixed race Brexit campaigner, has made a complaint to the Metropolitan Police after the Lib Dem leader claimed that Brexit supporters were older voters “driven by nostalgia for a world where passports were blue, faces were white.” Sir Vince, a leading Remainer pushing for a second EU referendum, denied that he had made racist remarks but Mr Kurten, a contender for the Ukip leadership, described his words as “a terrible slur motivated by racism”.

Nerve attack

Telegraph
The former Russian double agent and his daughter poisoned by a deadly nerve agent will either die or be crippled by their exposure to Novichok, according to the whistleblower who alerted the world to Russia’s secret chemical weapons programme. Vil Mirzayanov, a chemist who worked at the heart of the Soviet programme, said Russia was the only country able to produce and deploy such a powerful nerve agent, and he warned that many more people may fall ill. “It is at least 10 times more powerful than any known nerve agent.

Mail
Theresa May dramatically pointed the finger at Vladimir Putin last night over the nerve gas attack on a former spy and could order a cyber attack against Russia in retaliation. The Prime Minister said the facts increasingly suggested Russia was behind the apparent ‘hit’ on double-agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.  Branding the attack a ‘reckless and despicable act’, Mrs May said the substance used was a ‘military grade’ agent Moscow has produced. Mrs May said the government would not accept such an attempt to ‘murder innocent civilians on our soil’.  She will decide on a range of sanctions over the next 24 hours after urgent talks with Nato, the United Nations, EU and US.

Independent
Theresa May has said it is “highly likely” that Russia is responsible for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.  Updating MPs on the attack the Prime Minister said it is now clear they were poisoned by a military grade nerve agent of a type developed by the Russian state. It comes after Ms May was briefed in Downing Street by police and intelligence chiefs on the latest developments in the case at a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC). The Kremlin has denied involvement of the Russian government in the nerve agent attack on the Skripals but in an extraordinary statement, Ms May told MPs gathered in the Commons that Russia has previously produced this nerve agent and “would still be capable of doing so”.

Mirror
Theresa May today said it was “highly likely” Russia attacked ex-spy Sergei Skripal and gave the Kremlin a deadline of just over 24 hours to respond. Plunging Britain into its worst stand-off with Moscow since the Cold War, the Prime Minister revealed the 66-year-old and his daughter were targeted with a Russian-produced, military-grade nerve agent called Novichok in Salisbury. Her damning statement warned “much more extensive measures” will be taken against Moscow if it does not explain itself. But Russia’s Foreign Ministry has already reportedly brushed off the allegations as a “fairy tale”.

Telegraph
Theresa May has given Vladimir Putin until midnight on Tuesday to explain the use of a Russian-made nerve agent in the Salisbury attack or face retaliation for “a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil”. The Prime Minister told MPs that the Government “has concluded it is highly likely that Russia was responsible” for the attempted murder of the former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia last weekend. And she revealed that an illegal “weapons-grade” nerve agent known as Novichok was used in what she described as “an indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom”. Novichok is one of the most deadly chemical weapons ever developed.

Sun
THERESA May yesterday gave Russia’s Vladimir Putin until midnight tonight to explain the Salisbury spy poisoning — or face the wrath of Britain. She told MPs it was “highly likely” ex-MI6 double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were attacked with a Russian-produced nerve agent called Novichok. The PM revealed the chemical weapon used was designed by Russian scientists in the 1980s to kill thousands on the battlefield. Stunned MPs shouted “shame” in the Commons as she said its “indiscriminate” use in targeting former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia “put the lives of innocent civilians at risk”.

Guardian
Theresa May has given Vladimir Putin’s administration until midnight on Tuesday to explain how a former spy was poisoned in Salisbury, otherwise she will conclude it was an “unlawful use of force” by the Russian state against the UK. After chairing a meeting of the national security council, the prime minister told MPs that it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible for the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. She warned that Britain would not tolerate such a “brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil”
. In a statement to the House of Commons that triggered an angry response from Moscow, the prime minister said the evidence had shown that Skripal had been targeted by a “military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia”.

Times
Theresa May has cleared the way for a cyberattack on Russia as she challenged President Putin to explain how a powerful Russian nerve agent came to be used in an assassination attempt on British soil. The prime minister told MPs yesterday that the double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, were attacked in Salisbury last week with novichok, a chemical weapon up to eight times more powerful than the notorious VX nerve agent. It has never knowingly been deployed before, experts say. Russia had carried out a “direct attack on our country” or had “lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent”, Mrs May said.

Labour Party

Independent
Labour is embroiled in a row over alleged bullying at the top of the party after a shadow cabinet minister accused members of Jeremy Corbyn’s staff of “aggressive, intimidating and wholly unprofessional” behaviour. Debbie Abrahams, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said her experience highlighted “a bullying culture of the worst kind”, adding that she would be making a formal complaint to party officials and parliamentary authorities. 
The row came after Labour announced that Ms Abrahams had stepped aside while she is investigated over an “employment issue”. It is understood the issue relates to multiple allegations about her treatment of staff.

Times
Jeremy Corbyn was accused by his own MPs of politicising the poisoning of Sergei Skripal after he used his response to Theresa May’s Commons statement to criticise the Conservative Party’s Russian donors. The Labour leader faced shouts of “shame” and “disgrace” when he mentioned Tory donations. “We’re all familiar with the way huge fortunes, often acquired in the most dubious circumstances in Russia, sometimes connected with criminal elements, have ended up sheltering in London and trying to buy political influence in British party politics,” he said.

Mail
Jeremy Corbyn was branded ‘shameful’ today for launching a party political attack on Theresa May after she accused Russia over a nerve agent attack on UK soil. The Labour leader condemned the assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal but not before lashing the Prime Minister over Russia-linked donations to the Tories. Mr Corbyn was slammed by MPs on all sides of the Commons and his speech was greeted by jeers of ‘shame’ as he advocated ‘robust’ talks with the Kremlin. He insisted the Government’s response to the ‘shocking’ attack must focus on ‘reducing tensions’.  

Independent
Labour’s nationalisation agenda is as serious a threat to the economy as a hard Brexit, according to the Confederation of British Industry president. Jeremy Cobyn’s party campaigned on a general election manifesto last year to renationalise the water, rail, energy and postal services. And the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has also since pledged to bring controversial private finance initiative (PFI) deals back “in house” if Labour comes to power. But Paul Drechsler, in a speech to business leaders in London, dismissed this nationalisation programme as “ideology” and warned it is liable to deter much-needed private investment.

EU

Express
GUY Verhofstadt has hit out at EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker over the appointment of Martin Selmayr to European Commission secretary-general as Brussels officials face criticism from all sides over the controversial promotion of Juncker’s former righthand man. MEPs have spent the afternoon debating the appointment of Mr Selmayr, who was previously employed as Mr Juncker’s chief of staff, following claims that norms in the recruitment procedure were ignored to quickly install the Mr Selmayr.

Mail
Jean-Claude Juncker was engulfed in a cronyism storm yesterday after parachuting his chief of staff into a job as the EU’s top eurocrat. The European Commission president faced calls to sack notorious German official Martin Selmayr – nicknamed The Monster – after critics described his promotion as a ‘cloak and dagger’ coup. Leading MEPs threatened to topple his Commission, claiming the dramatic rise of the unelected lawyer had destroyed the credibility of Brussels. The European Ombudsman, an independent EU body that looks into wrongdoing, was yesterday considering an investigation alongside a separate probe by the European Parliament.

Breitbart
The unelected European Commission has made dire predictions for the UK economy ahead of Brexit trade talks, contradicting the recent claims of the Chancellor. Chancellor Phillip Hammond had used TV appearances over the weekend to hint that the UK was balancing its books, reducing the deficit, and could move to end austerity soon. The EU annual assessment of the British economy was leaked to 
The Sunday Times, with earlier versions available online. It says the economy has already “slowed markedly” and growth will be “subdued” in coming years. “Economic growth in the UK has slowed markedly since the start of 2017,” the report says. “GDP growth is expected to remain subdued, slowing gradually to 1.3 per cent in 2018 and to 1.1 per cent per cent in 2019.”

Bercow

Mail
The Commons Leader today ordered an independent inquiry into allegations of bullying of Parliamentary staff by MPs, including by Speaker John Bercow. With Mr Bercow watching from the Speaker’s chair, Andrea Leadsom said reports of bullying of parliamentary staff were of ‘huge concern’. Ms Leadsom said the ‘short’ inquiry would assess whether current procedures to protect people who work for the Commons were ‘fit for purpose’. She said there was a ‘need for change’ in the wake of a new wave of complaints about bullying MPs. Tory MP James Duddridge accused the Speaker of trying to ‘suppress’ allegations against him and intervened in the Commons to question whether it was ‘appropriate’ for him to preside over the debate.

Sky News
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has come under fresh pressure amid allegations of bullying against him and two other MPs. Answering an urgent question about claims of a “culture of fear” within Westminster, the Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom proposed an independent inquiry into “allegations of systemic bullying of parliamentary staff”. The Cabinet minister revealed she will recommend such an investigation to the House of Commons Commission, a cross-party group responsible for the administration of the House of Commons, which is chaired by Mr Bercow himself. Mrs Leadsom said: “I am more determined than ever that we banish all kinds of harassment and bullying from this place, because make no mistake, there is a need for change.”

Guardian
The leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, has launched an investigation into allegations of bullying of Commons staff by MPs, a move that will put increased pressure on the Speaker, John Bercow. Leadsom announced the investigation after an urgent question from MPs prompted by a Newsnight investigation alleging that Bercow’s private secretary resigned and had post-traumatic stress disorder after working in his office. The allegations against Bercow surfaced shortly before Debbie Abrahams, the shadow work and pensions secretary, was suspended from her role while an allegation of bullying against her was investigated. Abrahams hit back at the claims on Monday night, counter-accusing members of Jeremy Corbyn’s office of bullying her.

Social care

Guardian
The NHS could be plunged into a year-round crisis because of a lack of social care provision, the head of one of England’s biggest councils has warned. The comments by Andrew Travers, the chief executive of Lambeth council in south London, were made as the chancellor,  Philip Hammond, faces pressure to address funding shortages in his spring statement. They follow a warning by the Local Government Association (LGA) that a “tipping point” for adult social care was fast approaching and that inaction from ministers was no longer an option. 
Labour said a £6.3bn in adult social care funding had been lost since 2010.

NHS

Sun
ONE in four adults now suffer multiple health problems, a study warns. Experts said they take up most GP consultations, prescriptions and hospital admissions. 
And they fear the rising numbers of complex cases are putting the NHS under major strain. Researchers in Cambridge, Bristol and Utah universities found 14 million people in England have two or more long-term conditions. These include illnesses linked to poor lifestyle such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer. The four-year study found 53 per cent of GP appointments and 56 per cent of hospital admissions involve people with several conditions. They account for 79 per cent of prescriptions.

Morning Star
AN NHS trust has had to go to the High Court to uphold its decision to end the PFI contract for an unsafe £75 million mental health hospital. About 50 patients at Roseberry Park in Middlesbrough, which opened just eight years ago, have had to be relocated due to fears over serious defects in the hospital’s fire safety systems. Adult inpatient services have been moved to Sandwell Park hospital in Hartlepool, a half-hour drive or 40-minute train journey from Roseberry Park.

The economy

Mail
Britain’s economy is set to confound the sceptics as the country leaves the EU, Philip Hammond will declare today. The Chancellor will cast aside his reputation as the Cabinet’s Eeyore figure to unveil upgraded forecasts in his spring statement, according to Whitehall sources last night The Chancellor would be ‘markedly optimistic about the outlook’ ahead of Brexit next year, said one. Mr Hammond is expected to give only a brief 15-minute update to Parliament on the economy and public finances today as the Budget has been moved to the end of the year. The passionate Remain campaigner has refused to say in recent days if leaving the bloc will be ‘worth it’. But he is said to have been struck by the resilience of the UK economy since the EU referendum.

Sky News
The Chancellor is expected to offer some good news when he gives his first spring statement later. Lower than expected borrowing and higher than predicted GDP growth last year will bring a note of optimism, but Philip Hammond has already suggested it is too early to take his foot off the austerity brake. At the weekend he said: “There is light at the end of the tunnel because what we are about to see is debt starting to fall after it has been growing for 17 continuous years. “That is a very important moment for us but we are still in the tunnel at the moment.”

University lecturers

Times
University lecturers could return to work as early as tomorrow after sides in a dispute over pensions reached an agreement. After ten days of industrial action by teaching staff, vice-chancellors seemed to back down on plans to scrap their generous defined benefit pension scheme and said that they would increase university pension contributions to almost 20 per cent of salaries for three years. Lecturers will also increase contributions. Defined benefit pensions guarantee an income in retirement, based on final salaries.

Guardian
Strikes by university staff, which have caused widespread disruption on campuses across the UK in a bitter dispute over pensions, could be suspended later this week after a breakthrough in talks. Employers and union leaders have agreed a revised proposal to reform pensions, which – if endorsed by all parties – will be introduced as part of a three-year transitional arrangement. The proposal has been sent to members of the University and College Union (UCU) and will be considered on Tuesday at a meeting of the its higher education committee and at a separate meeting of branch representatives.

Mail
The threat of further strikes by university lecturers was receding last night. Lecturers’ leaders and university officials are said to have reached an agreement in a bitter dispute over pensions. The row centred on proposals that would change the pension from a defined benefit scheme, which gives workers a guaranteed income in their retirement, to a defined contribution scheme, in which pensions are subject to fluctuations in the stock market.  The change was an attempt to address a funding gap in the scheme. The University and College Union said that talks with Universities UK had resulted in a transitional arrangement under which employers and employees will be required to pay higher pension contributions for three years.

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